Michigan: Legislation expands work-related cancer coverage for firefighters
Numerous studies have shown that firefighters are at risk for many cancers due to exposure to toxic chemicals, fumes and smoke. Safety experts have found that protective equipment, such as masks and respirators, do not completely eliminate risks for firefighters when they come in contact with hazardous substances such as asbestos, benzene or formaldehyde.
Under House Bill 4473, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Haase, D-Richmond, full-time professional firefighters who have been employed for at least five years and suffer from certain types of cancer would be covered for treatment under the state's comp laws. In addition to heart and lung cancer, which are already covered under the act, respiratory tract, bladder, skin, brain, kidney, blood and lymphatic cancer would be covered. The cancers would not be covered if there is evidence of a preexisting condition or if the firefighter has been a consistent cigarette smoker or user of tobacco products within 10 years of the date of the cause, aggravation or progression of the cancer. The cancer presumption would only take effect if the firefighter has applied twice and is denied any pension benefits to which he, or his dependent, may be entitled.
"Every day firefighters encounter dangerous situations and are exposed to toxic chemicals in order to stop fires and save lives," she said. "We must do everything we can to ensure the proper treatment is accessible."
Haase said presumption of cancer in firefighters is widely accepted throughout the country. Currently, 24 states have laws in effect that presume if a firefighter develops cancer, it is occupationally induced.
The bill now heads to the state Senate for debate.
June 4, 2009
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