On Monday October 23, 2017, NBC Nightly News highlighted the “alarming cancer rise among American firefighters.” NBC highlighted a few firefighters and their struggles with blood cancer, tumors in and around the heart, kidney cancer and brain cancer. Many city fire departments are tracking elevated cancer rates. 163 firefighters and EMT’s from Ground Zero have died of cancer.
The news video explained the increase amounts of synthetics, plastics and chemicals will cover a firefighter with dangerous and toxic soot. Because of the increase diagnosis of cancer, many fire stations are taking extra safety precautions like machine washing protective gear and increase rules and protocols about wearing safety masks.
OHIO RECOGNIZES CANCER AS OCCUPATIONAL ILLNESS FOR FIREFIGHTERS
For several years, Ohio State Senator Tom Patton worked vigorously to sponsor this bill and bring it to completion. In January 2017, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act which makes it easier for Ohio firefighters with cancer to receive workers compensation benefits.
This relatively new legislation basically assumes certain types of cancer are occupational illnesses for firefighters performing official duties. Sadly, Captain Palumbo, for whom the bill was named, passed away on May 24, 2017 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Local firefighter Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. receives hero’s burial
“As we lay Michael to rest today, his legacy which he left in the fire service will carry on forever,” Lt. Bill Mastroianni of Euclid Fire Department said. “Michael becomes the face of Senate Bill 27, and his determination and selflessness in getting this legislation passed will continue to protect fire fighters and their families against this dreaded occupational and deadly disease for decades to come.”
OHIO BWC INITIATES FIREFIGHTER EXPOSURE GRANT PROGRAM
This month, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation recently announced the first 38 fire departments to receive money under the Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program. This grant provides funding to help purchase safety gear to help protect firefighters from the dangerous and toxic soot.
Fire Departments Awarded First OH Environmental Exposure Grants
"The dangers of fighting a fire do not stop when the flames are extinguished," said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. "The men and women who risk their lives to save ours deserve access to the best equipment and tools that can minimize long-term threats to their health and well-being."
GARSON JOHNSON APPLAUDS OHIO'S EFFORTS
As strong and tireless advocates for injured workers in Ohio, Garson Johnson is pleased the Ohio legislature and the Ohio BWC are making such efforts to provide firefighters with the workers’ compensation benefits they so desperately need when fighting cancer. We also applaud the BWC for working with the fire departments and city employers to help protect these men and women. The Palumbo Act and the Firefighters Grant program are providing increased benefits for this dangerous occupation.
With these two positive changes, we would hope that the General Assembly will see fit someday to expand the “Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act” to include other occupations that pose a similar heightened risk to its workers.
If you or a family member is a fire fighter diagnosed with cancer, please contact our attorneys. We want to help you navigate through the BWC process and ensure you receive all the benefits and compensation owed to you.