Bill Would Add Cancer As Work Place Injury For Fire Fighters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Cancer diagnosed fire fighters could soon receive help from worker's compensation if a new bill in the state legislature becomes law.

House Bill 1491 would presume fire fighters who are diagnosed with cancer got the disease because of a fire fighter's duties. The bill was filed with ten cancers listed. They included lung, skin, mesothelioma, and others.

Proponents of the bill said the idea is fire fighters come in contact with harmful chemicals on fire calls, but it's difficult to prove which call caused a specific cancer. This bill would make it easier for fire fighters to make those claims and receive worker's compensation.

"If you try to get coverage for cancer as an on-the-job injury, you have to pinpoint that scene that you were on that you were exposed to a certain chemical or a certain agent that gave you cancer," said Eddie Mitchell, President of Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association. "Under this bill, if it becomes law, you wouldn't have to do that. Simply by being a firefighter you would be covered. It would be presumed this was a job-related injury."

Mitchell said even though fire fighting gear is getting better all of the time, there are still body parts that get exposed to burning plastic or insulation. In a report by the International Association of Fire Fighters, they can be exposed to hazardous chemicals such as carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide.

"Our equipment keeps getting better through the years, but we keep contracting a higher rate of cancer than the general public," Mitchell said. "A lot of national and international studies have shown that there is a higher rate in fire fighters than the general public."

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