While the workers' compensation laws in many states automatically presume cancer to be an occupational risk for firefighters, sadly Connecticut laws do not. In fact, Connecticut firefighters may not even be able to collect workers' compensation benefits if they develop cancer after exposure to hazardous substances and carcinogens while fighting fires. Even worse, families of firefighters who die of cancer may not be able to collect benefits either.
However, this may soon change if some Connecticut lawmakers have their way.
Recently, legislators in Connecticut introduced new legislation that seeks to create additional protections for both paid and volunteer firefights who develop cancer, including firefighters suffering from Kahler'sDisease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or any form of cancer affecting the brain, skin, skeletal system, digestive system, respiratory system, reproductive system or urinary system, among others.
Specifically, this bill - otherwise known as House Bill 5262 - would, if passed, create a legal standard in which cancer among firefighters would be "presumed to have been suffered in the line of duty as a result of inhalation, absorption or ingestion of noxious fumes or poisonous gases," provided that the firefighter in question has:
- Passed a physical upon becoming a firefighter or, after entering service, has a physical that fails to show any evidence of cancer
- Worked for at least five years as a firefighter before his or her cancer is diagnosed, or should have been diagnosed
- Developed a form of cancer known to result from exposure to "heat, radiation or a known carcinogen"
If passed, this bill would make any firefighter who meets the conditions above eligible for workers' compensation benefits in Connecticut - unless, of course, there is significant evidence indicating the cancer is not related to his or her work as a firefighter.
While it remains to be seen whether this proposed legislation will become law, there is no doubt that it is necessary to protect our firefighters, especially given the many studies that have discovered links between cancer and the dangerous work of firefighters.