By Richard D, Lovett, MD Oncologist, Rutland Regional Medical Center Department Physician, City of Rutland Fire Department Medical Advisor, Vermont State Firefighters Association
The Firefighter Protection Act of 2007 was passed into law and signed by Governor James Douglas on July 1, 2007. This law recognizes that there are certain cancers that are seen with increased incidence in firefighters. The law also recognizes that there is an occupational risk of contracting these cancers and requires that Workman’s Compensation would cover the cancers if they occur. The cancers which are covered by this law are leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, cancers originating in the gastrointestinal tract, bladder, brain, colon, liver, pancreas, skin or testicles. One cancer in particular that is not covered is lung cancer. The coverage is based on various research studies showing an increased incidence of certain cancers in firefighters above the general public. Lung cancer rates in firefighters are not increased over the public.
Firefighters are exposed to many carcinogens during their work. Particulates, gasses, mists and fumes exist at the fire scene. Heavy metal exposure from metals such as lead, antimony, and cadmium can occur. Many chemicals are the byproducts of combustion and contain polyaromatic hydrocarbons formaldehydes, benzene, and other carcinogens. Minerals such as asbestos and silicates are also known to promote carcinogenesis.
The law is specific about the firefighters
which are covered. All firefighters should undergo an initial cancer screening within two years of the day the law was enacted. The deadline is July, 1, 2009. All firefighters are covered after 5 years of service on the department. All firefighters are covered for 10 years after their retirement, or the last fire attended, as long as their age is less than 65 years old. Newly hired firefighters should undergo a cancer screening at the time of their hiring. Most importantly, to be eligible, a firefighter should abstain from tobacco products for 10 years.
The cancer screening for each firefighter is based on the American Cancer Society’s routine cancer screening guidelines. For males, under the age of 45, a routine physical exam with attention to the head and neck region, lymph nodes, abdomen, testicles, as well as other routinely examined organ systems is sufficient. Over 45 years old, consideration of a PSA and digital rectal exam added to the routine exam, should be done, especially if there is a family history of prostate cancer. Above 50 years old, colonoscopy, rectal exam and PSA should be done. Women in the fire service should also have mammography and gynecologic exams with PAP smears as directed by their physicians based on screening guidelines. Most firefighters will have had most, if not all of these tests done by their physicians as part of routine health maintenance.
Firefighters should continue
routine cancer screening as recommended in the future. A firefighter should have their physician document that there is no evidence of malignancy based on the routine screening exam. The firefighter should keep this document in their possession; their physician should also keep a copy of this document in their medical file.
The public can minimize their risk of cancer by maintaining a normal weight, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, limiting their exposure to the sun and UV light, avoiding excess alcohol, and abstaining f rom tobacco products.
A firefighter should practice preventative measures to avoid undue risk of cancer. They should abstain from all tobacco products. They should use their portable breathing apparatus at the fire scene. You should use your turnout gear at the scene, and keep it clean of soot and debris. The firefighter should wash any exposed skin as soon after the fire as possible. Exposure to truck exhaust, especially diesel exhaust should be minimized as much as possible.
In summary, the Firefighter
Protection Act of 2007 is written to help protect you and your loved ones, should a covered cancer develop. You must , however , document your cancer screening before July 1, 2009, and you must abstain from tobacco products to take advantage of this legislation. Forms to assist you in this documentation are available for download by clicking below:
NOTICE Copies of the screenings required under the Cancer Presumption Act should not be sent to the VSFA!!! A copy should be kept by your physician in your medical records and you should retain a copy in a safe place in case you ever need to prove in the future that you had the screening.
There are many risk factors for breast cancer. Exposures to certain chemicals have been identified as possible risk factors for breast cancer. Exposure to some of these chemicals may occur during firefighting activities. For more information on female firefighters and their cancer risks, follow this link: http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/learning/alert/fire08.cfm
Important Reminder Concerning Cancer Screenings for Fire Fighters!
The Fire Fighter Protection Act of 2007 was passed into law and signed by Governor James Douglas on July 1, 2007. The law is specific about the fire fighters which are covered. All fire fighters should undergo an initial cancer screening within two years of the day the law was enacted. The deadline is July 1, 2009. All firefighters are covered after 5 years of service on the department, as long as their age is less than 65 years old. Newly hired fire fighters should undergo a cancer screening at the time of their hiring or appointment. Most importantly, to be eligible, a fire fighter should abstain from tobacco products for 10 years.
Please make an appointment for your initial screening today by calling your physician!