Firefighters risk their lives every time they go into a burning building, but fire and smoke are not the only dangers they face. They also are increasing their risk of developing cancer.
A recent study with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that firefighters have higher rates of certain cancers than the general public. The Wheeling Fire Department is no exception.
“Actually right now we have two that are on the line that are fighting cancer as we speak. Unfortunately, it was two years ago today that we lost one of our brothers to cancer,” said firefighter’s Local #12 President Tom Haluscak.
Now, the Wheeling firefighter’s union Local #12 is pushing for legislation in the state Senate that would recognize cancer as a work-related illness.
Firefighters are obviously exposed to danger in a burning building, but they also inhale and absorb dangerous chemicals and toxins.
“Really our fire call isn’t done until we’re back home safe in the fire house, all our gear is cleaned, our trucks are cleaned, and then we get everything back in service because it still poses a hazard then,” said Haluscak.
This legislation would help firefighters with treatment and rehabilitation.
Just last year, the state of Ohio passed a similar bill, and right now in the U.S., 34 states have a “cancer presumption” law.
Firefighters say if the bill is not passed in this session, they will continue to push for it.
“It’s something we really hold true to our hearts because it’s just a matter of time before we have to let our members know that another brother or sister is going to have cancer,” said Haluscak.