Firefighters are exposed to a cocktail of toxins and carcinogens firefighting. There is a wealth of international research which has proven the link between firefighting and the increased risk of specific cancers for firefighters.
Firefighters absorb these toxins and carcinogens through their skin. Firefighters cannot be fully protected as their firefighting personal protective clothing has to breathe to prevent metabolic heat build up. Therefore, while firefighters take every precaution to mitigate their exposure, including breathing apparatus, they cannot prevent all exposure due to the absorption through the uniform and through the skin.
As these are occupational cancers, firefighters should be able to access their entitlements including medical assistance and compensation as they can for any other work-related injury or illness.
However, firefighters are being denied their rights to compensation and medical assistance for these work-related diseases (occupational cancers) because they cannot prove which particular carcinogens they were exposed to, and the specific fire/s where they were exposed.
The firefighter is left with the option of funding costly and stressful litigation at a time when they need the help the most. This means firefighters have had to fund their own treatment and use all personal leave, or take leave without pay, while undergoing treatment. Sadly, where they have not recovered and have succumbed to the cancer, families are being left without compensation or having to fund litigation in order to have the firefighter’s cancer recognised as a work-related disease.
The answer is legislation that presumes specific cancers are occupational cancers for firefighters unless it can be proven otherwise. This is called rebuttable presumptive legislation.
The UFUA has successfully campaigned to have presumptive legislation recognising 12 cancers for Federal firefighters (those working in the ACT and Aviation) and in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.
The UFUA continues to campaign so that all Australian firefighters have the protection of presumptive legislation.
More information is available from the UFUA including the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation Facebook page. Show your support by liking, and sharing with your family and friends.