Kudos to the New Hampshire Legislature for finally passing legislation that will give benefits to firefighters’ battling cancer and for Gov. Chris Sununu, who plans to sign the bill into law.
For more than 30 years, New Hampshire law stated that firefighters diagnosed with cancer are presumed to have gotten their disease through exposure to harsh chemicals from fires in the line of duty.
The law was put on the books in 1987 and was backed up over the years by a growing amount of research that links firefighting to several types of cancer.
Yet, the Legislature never approved a funding source for the workers’ compensation benefits. And as a result, firefighters diagnosed with cancer, like the late Hampton firefighter Kyle Jameson, not only had to deal with the emotional toll of the diagnosis but also the financial impact of being out of work as they battle the disease.
Bill McQuillen, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire and a Portsmouth fire captain, said the bill would satisfy the call from firefighters for coverage funding as firefighters are considered to be at a higher risk of cancer than the general public.
Funding the firefighter cancer benefits via workers compensation not only makes sense but is the right thing to do.
The cancers mostly responsible for this higher risk were respiratory (lung, mesothelioma), GI (oral cavity, esophageal, large intestine) and kidney.
If you delve deeper into the data, the statistics are even more telling.
Firefighters have a 62 percent higher risk of getting esophageal cancer and are twice as likely to get mesothelioma.