VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS VS. CANCER

FASNY kicks off cancer awareness campaign with video showcasing stories of firefighter cancer survivors; pushes for expanded cancer coverage for NY’s 92,000 volunteer FFs

(Albany, NY – September 16, 2015) The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) is taking on a new challenge: cancer. More and more firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer, and recent medical studies have demonstrated that firefighters are at a significantly higher risk for many types of cancer than the general population. This is due to the high levels of carcinogens and other toxins found in burning buildings and the other hazardous environments that firefighters routinely work in.

Central to this new, statewide campaign is “Firefighters Fighting Cancer”, a FASNY-produced video that highlights the stories of six cancer survivors from across New York State. These six brave men and women exemplify the dedication to their communities that is a hallmark of New York’s volunteer fire service, but they also showcase a disturbing trend. All six were seemingly healthy, with no notable health issues to speak of, when they received their respective cancer diagnoses. Based on the types of cancer these firefighters were each diagnosed with, it is believed that their illnesses may likely be a by-product of their work as volunteer firefighters.

The full video can be viewed at www.fasny.com/fightcancer

New York State legislation sponsored by State Senator Michael Nozzolio and Assemblymember Aileen Gunther would provide presumptive cancer coverage to New York’s 92,000 volunteer firefighters. The bill would cover several types of cancers presumed to be linked to firefighting, ensuring that no firefighter diagnosed with cancer would be left looking for help. The bill would ensure that New York’s volunteer firefighters have the safety net that they deserve, and that a cancer diagnosis does not spell potential personal and financial ruin.

FASNY will use the “Firefighters Fighting Cancer” video to generate grassroots-level support for this critical piece of legislation, which passed the Senate last session, but ended the session in committee in the Assembly. The video promises to be a powerful tool in engaging the people of New York State in an important discussion about the need for presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters. 92,000 firefighters in New York State volunteer to run into burning buildings, to pull people out of wrecked cars, and to spend countless nights and weekends away from their families for the good of the community. These 92,000 firefighters did not volunteer to get cancer, and they deserve the support of the state and local communities that they have so diligently served.

Although FASNY has instituted a robust education and awareness campaign to inform firefighters about the risk of cancer, and how to avoid it, the truth remains that the risk of cancer must be recognized as a part of modern firefighting. Education and awareness can only go so far – New York’s firefighters need presumptive cancer coverage.

“There are 92,000 reasons that volunteer firefighters should have presumptive cancer coverage in New York State,” said FASNY President Robert McConville. “Watch ‘Firefighters Fighting Cancer’ and learn the stories of these brave men and women. Share it with your friends and your families, and please let your legislators know that presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters is not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do. No firefighter should be left wanting for help and assistance during their most desperate hour.”

“This legislation will provide greatly needed presumptive cancer coverage to the 92,000 volunteer firefighters in New York State who are at a significantly higher risk for cancers due to their exposure to carcinogens and other deadly toxins,” said Senator Nozzolio. “My constituent, Matthew Foe of Geneva, a volunteer fireman for over 20 years, passed away after battling brain cancer.  This bill will ensure that dedicated volunteers, like Matthew, who sacrifice their safety to protect all of us will not be neglected when facing a cancer diagnosis.”

“Firefighters all deserve presumptive cancer coverage, regardless of whether they are career or volunteer,” said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther. “All firefighters face incredible danger in order to help others, and all are exposed to deadly carcinogens in the process. As such, all firefighters deserve the same benefits. Fires do not discriminate, and neither should we.”

Key Facts on Cancer:

  1. Firefighters are 102% more likely to develop testicular cancer than the general population.*
  2. Firefighters are 53% more likely to develop multiple myeloma than the general population. *
  3. Firefighters are 62% more likely to develop cancer of the oesophagus than the general population.**
  4. Firefighters are 21% more likely to develop intestinal cancer than the general population.**
  5. Firefighters are 26% more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population**

*Source: LeMasters,G. (2006). Cancer Risk Among Firefighters: A Review and Meta-analysis of 32 Studies. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine  doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000246229.68697.90
<https://www.iaff.org/hs/PDF/Cancer Risk Among Firefighters – UC Study.pdf>.

**Source: Daniels, R. (2013). Mortality and cancer incidence in a pooled cohort of US firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia (1950-2009). Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine. doi:10.1136
<http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/firefighters/pdfs/OEM_FF_Ca_Study_10-2013.pdf>.