Understanding the connection between cancer and firefighting

Firefighting is a profession that comes with inherent risks. Firefighters have to put themselves in very dangerous situations so that they can bring others to safety. This is stressful from a psychological perspective, but the nature of firefighting also puts stresses on the body. One of the main reasons for this is because firefighters are often exposed to dangerous fumes.

Some of the chemicals that firefighters are often exposed to are known carcinogens, and this means that firefighters have a higher risk of developing cancer than the population as a whole. If a firefighter or a former firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, they may be able to claim workers' compensation as a result.

How common is cancer among firefighters?

A 2015 published paper studied the California Cancer Registry data between 1988 and 2007 to evaluate the risk of cancer among firefighters. It found that three different cancers were elevated in firefighters specifically. These cancers were melanoma, prostate cancer and brain cancer. The elevated rates were significant enough to suggest that the toxins present when firefighting were the cause. Several other cancers were found to be significantly elevated among firefighters of other race/ethnicity.

What workers' compensation rights do firefighters have in California?

In California, a firefighter can gain compensation for cancer, including leukemia, with full coverage of medical treatment and disability indemnity. They can gain this compensation if they can demonstrate that they were exposed to a known carcinogen as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Essentially, the occurrence of cancer in firefighters who have been exposed to known carcinogens is presumed to be a result of their profession, and, therefore, workers' compensation can be claimed.

Are there federal regulations in place to track cancer in firefighters?

On July 7, 2018, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act was signed into law. This law requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to maintain a registry of data regarding incidences of cancer in firefighters. This registry will serve as important data that will help research practices and safety operations.

If you are a firefighter and you have been diagnosed with cancer, taking action to get the workers' compensation that you deserve could help to finance your treatment.

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