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Firefighters can receive compensation for job-related cancer

A 2011 law that allows Pennsylvania firefighters to seek workers' compensation for cancers that resulted from exposure to carcinogenic fumes brings state law into line with how other states treat these cases, according to a state official. The law recognizes that carcinogens can linger in the body for years before cancer actually appears.

The law, which went into effect on July 7, 2011, provides for firefighters to file a workers' compensation claim within 11 ½ years after leaving the job. That is twice as long as the general window given to injured workers, another sign of how long the period between toxin exposure and cancer diagnosis can be.

The law applies to both paid and volunteer firefighters and allows them or their estates to file a claim for medical costs, lost wages and death benefits. To prevail, the claimant must prove that he or she was exposed to certain types of carcinogens while battling fires or dealing with hazardous materials on the job.

In recent months, private workers' compensation insurance companies that had previously insured cities and towns in Pennsylvania have been dropping the municipalities over the potential costs. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Frank Farry, called those decisions "disingenuous" because the heads of several municipal trusts did not say during hearings over the bill that insurance would be dropped.

Firefighters perform a dangerous job to rescue us from fires and other emergency situations. When they become seriously ill as a result, they should be compensated for their on-the-job illnesses.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Municipalities expect increase in firefighter workers'-comp insurance," Jewels Phraner, Oct. 24, 2012

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