Though the public may think that mesothelioma is a disease of the past — that our awareness of asbestos’s dangers has put a stop to people’s exposure and the condition will eventually disappear — that is absolutely not the case. Not only are there still jobs that have employees working directly with asbestos, but many occupations put people in harm’s way through their exposure to asbestos that has been in place for years, and firefighters rank high in this group. Firefighters rush into burning and collapsing buildings that were constructed using asbestos, and often end up breathing in asbestos particles. Because of this risk and the risk of other cancers, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has just signed a law designating cancer as a work-related injury for fighters, providing them with the ability to have the costs of all cancer treatments paid for, and the time to seek that treatment.
Though many employers push back against mesothelioma claims, the new law will ensure that firefighters do not have to worry about the costs of their medical needs or their time away from work. This is a shift from the previous standard, which required these brave first responders to use sick days, vacation days and personal days for treatment. Speaking of the new law, Governor Baker said, “Cancer is a very real hazard of the job, and we want to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to help those who serve.”
The new law follows extensive efforts by lawmakers and firefighter representatives, including Edward Kelly who is general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “As firefighters, we accept the sacrifice of our job as part of our calling,” Kelly said. “But when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave and we go off the payroll and we lose our health care, that is just wrong.”
In addition to protecting firefighters who are mesothelioma victims, the law will specifically include coverage for cancers that affect female firefighters, including reproductive cancers and breast cancers. With hundreds of firefighters diagnosed with cancer every year and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that firefighters are 9 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population, this law is timely and the protections well deserved.
If you were exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you are likely facing enormous medical bills as well as emotional stress. For assistance in getting the resources and support you need, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.