WHEELING, W.Va (WTRF)
Fighters risk their lives everyday.
They run towards danger to protect the innocent in their communities. But beyond the smoke and flames, these civic heroes are fighting a personal battle.
Studies show occupational cancer is the biggest killer for these first responders and they are developing certain cancers at a much higher rate than the general public.
In 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health started a several year long study, testing nearly 30,000 fire men and women in three states to examine the degree of risk firefighting has on developing cancer.
Tom Haluscak, Local 12 President, said he spends countless hours in Charleston advocating for legislation. He said the battle with insurance companies to recognize their workers comp claims is a battle in and of itself.
There are 38 states across the U.S. who have “presumptive laws” which help firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer to receive benefits for getting the disease on the job, a law West Virginia passed in recent years.
They’re not only getting these cancers through inhalation. Haluscak said they’re also getting these toxins in their bodies through absorption which is opening the door for many more types of cancer.
In 2018, President Trump signed the National Fire Fighter Registry into order so firefighters could track their diagnoses with the CDC and subsequently, win their claims.