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Firefighters Twice As Likely as Rest of Population to Develop Cancer

Steve Wagner

Indiana Legislator Supports Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017

Firefighters are at a significantly increased risk for developing cancer, especially testicular cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, Indiana’s 9th Congressional District representative, has co-sponsored legislation aimed at tackling increased cancer rates among firefighters. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, would provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the funding and capability to collect and analyze data related to cancer incidents within the profession.

According to the bill summary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would need to develop and maintain a voluntary registry of firefighters to collect history and occupational information that can be linked to existing data in state cancer registries. The registry must be used to improve monitoring of cancer among firefighters and to collect and publish epidemiological information regarding cancer among firefighters. The CDC should seek to include specified information in the registry, including the number and type of fire incidents attended by an individual.

Firefighters Have Twice As Many Cancer-Related Deaths

Firefighters are continually exposed to carcinogenic toxic chemicals likes diesel engine exhaust, formaldehyde, soot, chloroform, benzene, and asbestos. In 2010, the largest ever study of U.S. firefighters by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that firefighters had a nine percent higher rate of cancer diagnoses and 14 percent more cancer-related deaths than the average American. The study also found mortality patterns and cancer incidence among a group of U.S. career firefighters:

  • Cancers of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems accounted mostly for the higher rates of cancer seen in the study population.
  • The population of firefighters in the study had a rate of mesothelioma two times greater than the rate in the U.S. population as a whole.
  • Firefighters can be exposed to contaminants from fires that are known or suspected to cause cancer. These contaminants include combustion by-products such as benzene and formaldehyde, and materials in debris such as asbestos from older structures.

Presumptive Disability Law

Indiana’s presumptive disability law recognizes that firefighters are at increased risk for certain illnesses, including cancer. The law makes a “presumption” of certain types of cancer, heart and lung disease and neurological disorders. This means that the law presumes these medical issues are due to a worker’s service as a firefighter. This requires the city to take care of medical expenses for these diseases and, if properly documented, could give the firefighter the Line of Duty Disability benefit (tax free pension) or their family the Line-of-Duty Death Benefit.

Injured workers and families who were not given the full work comp benefits they deserved may be eligible for compensation to cover the damages they have suffered and assist with medical payments and living expenses, whether the injury is temporary or permanent.

Contact Wagner Reese

When workers who risk their lives are denied the money they deserve, the Indianapolis work comp lawyers at Wagner Reese can help, and will work hard to get what is owed. Give Wagner Reese a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation.


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