The number of cancers considered as occupational hazards for firefighters has expanded in B.C.

The number of cancers considered as occupational hazards for firefighters has expanded in B.C.

Firefighters’ cancer battle gets support

Esophageal cancer added to list of occupational diseases for firefighters to access B.C. Workers Compensation benefits

Battling bureaucracy over cancer is one less challenge firefighters will face in the line of duty.

Occupational disease regulations have been expanded so firefighters who develop esophageal cancer can more easily access benefits under B.C.’s Workers Compensation Act.

“It’s good news for firefighters,” said Brent Bond, Vernon Professional Firefighters Association president.

“The onus was always on the employee to prove the cancer was caused by occupational activities. It was very rare for diseases to be recognized by WorkSafe.”

The change in policy means full-time and  volunteer firefighters will no longer have to provide medical or scientific evidence that the esophageal cancer was work-related.

“Anyone who is struck with cancer, the last thing they need to do is fight somebody over funding,” said Ian Cummings, Armstrong-Spallumcheen fire chief.

Esophageal cancer is now the 10th cancer recognized under the Workers Compensation Act as occupational diseases. The other cancers are bran, bladder, kidney, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ureter, colorectal, leukemia, testicular and lung for non-smokers.

“Firefighting is a dangerous occupation,” said Cummings, adding that hazards originate from burning building materials or items inside structures.

“There are dangerous chemicals out there and firefighters are getting ill.”

Bond believes health risks are increasing for firefighters.

“There are new synthetics and carcinogens and they produce more hazardous fumes all of the time,” he said.