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Surrounded By Firefighters, Governor Baker Signs Historic Cancer Legislation Bill

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Surrounded By Firefighters, Governor Baker Signs Historic Cancer Legislation Bill

Sponsored by State Representative Daniel Cahill, the legislation recognizes cancer as a work-related injury for firefighters, allowing them better access to treatment

PR Newswire

LYNN, Mass., July 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Surrounded by firefighters, retirees and families, today Governor Charlie Baker joined leaders from the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts at the Broadway Fire Station in Lynn to sign legislation that recognizes cancer in firefighters as a work-related injury. Championed by State Representative Daniel Cahill (10th Essex), HB 2515, an act relative to disability benefits, gained unanimous approval in both the House and Senate recently and now will become law.

Governor Baker signs bill to designate cancer as work-related injury for state's firefighters. From left, Rich MacKinnon, Professional Fire Fighters of MA, Speaker Robert DeLeo, State Rep.'s Dan Cahill and Lori Ehrlich, and Sharmon Caolarusso, mother of the late Plymouth firefighter Anthony Colarusso, who died from esophageal cancer in 2015 at the age of 39 after losing his health insurance and receiving no paycheck for 93 days.

"Our administration is grateful for the dedicated service of firefighters across the Commonwealth who work hard to keep our communities safe, and we are pleased to sign this bill to prioritize their health care needs," said Governor Baker. "We thank the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts for their leadership and the Legislature for passing this legislation and strengthening Massachusetts' commitment to our first responders and their families."

"Across the Commonwealth, thousands of firefighters risk physical harm to protect our communities on a daily basis," said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. "This bill will help provide for those men and women impacted by cancer, one of the many unseen dangers associated with such a courageous profession."

"I'd like to thank State Representative Dan Cahill for authoring this legislation and working with us throughout the session to make the law a reality. During this process, we're proud that the legislation became even stronger, and now includes cancers commonly linked to firefighters such as leukemia, skin, throat and brain cancer, as well as female reproductive and breast cancers," said Rich MacKinnon, Jr., President of the Professional Fire Fighters of MA. "Governor Baker took an interest in the legislation from day one and we're proud to stand here today with him as the bill becomes law. But the real winners today are our members and our families. This law gives us the resources to fight cancer with the ultimate goal of returning back to work cancer free."

"Today we honor our brave firefighters who work daily to protect our communities, our homes and our families," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "By providing support to them as they recover from chronic illnesses, we enable a stronger, healthier and more effective first responder force. Thank you to Governor Baker, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Representative Daniel Cahill and my colleagues in the House who worked hard together to make this possible."

"The Commonwealth's commitment to supporting firefighters and their families is unwavering," said State Representative Daniel Cahill. "Speaker Robert DeLeo, President Chandler, and Governor Baker wholeheartedly supported this legislation from the start and now firefighters diagnosed with cancer, including female firefighters suffering from breast and reproductive system cancers, can solely focus on recovery and returning to their firehouses." 

"This first in the nation legislation protects Massachusetts firefighters from financial ruin when they are already in a fight for their lives battling cancer from the chronic carcinogenic exposures endured while firefighting," said Edward Kelly, General Secretary Treasurer, International Association of Fire Fighters. "This bill ensures that their families continue to receive the benefits they deserve, including access to healthcare. This is a great day for firefighters."

Firefighters have a 62 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer, are diagnosed with testicular cancer and mesothelioma twice as much as the general population, and contract multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia, skin, brain, prostate, and colon cancers almost one and a half times more frequently than non-firefighters.

In Massachusetts, more than 300 active firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer in the last two years. Of these firefighters, 107 were able to return to work, 99 were forced to retire, and 29 succumbed to their illness. A multi-year CDC study found that firefighters are 9 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14 percent more likely to die of cancer than the general public.

About the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts
The Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) represent more than 12,000 active and retired professional firefighters within 220 local unions from across the Commonwealth. More information about the PFFM can be found at www.pffm.org.

 

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SOURCE Professional Firefighters of MA

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