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  Firefighter Wants Longer Work-Related Illness List
Publicado - Published: 07/05/2007

SYDNEY.- A Cape Breton firefighter says the Nova Scotia government should add to the list of diseases which are presumed to be job related for his profession.

Nova Scotia got off a good start in 2003 with legislation listing six types of cancer presumed to be job-related for firefighters when it comes to compensation, but the list should include other types of cancer and heart disease, said Jody Wrathall, of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Fire Service.

A fellow firefighter recently died of a type of cancer which isn’t on the list, he said.

“It’s really short,” he said. “Testicular cancer is big for us now, heart and lung, the heart attack issue. They are all things we are lobbying for now.”

Firefighters in the regional fire service have an average age of 50, which means many are older than that, said Wrathall, president of the Local 2779 of the International Association of Firefighters.

“We have a lot of guys 55 and 60 now that are front-line firefighters and as good shape as they are in, it is still an awful stress on their heart.”

Nova Scotia passed legislation in 2003 saying the workers compensation board will presume primary site brain, bladder, kidney and colon cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia were job related for firefighters unless proven otherwise when it comes to compensation for them or their widows.

Similar legislation passed in the Ontario legislature Thursday had a longer list including brain, bladder, kidney, colorectal, ureter and esophageal cancer, leukemia and non-Hodgekin’s lymphoma, as well as heart attacks if they happen within 24 hours of a fire.

The legislation in both provinces includes minimum periods of employment or volunteer firefighting for each type of cancer.

Firefighters are exposed to toxic fumes that may be breathed in or absorbed through the skin, said fire prevention officer George Muise, of the regional fire service.

There are many things in homes like carpets or foam in chesterfields that give off deadly gases when they burn, he said.

Many firefighters didn’t wear a breathing apparatus years ago, he noted.

Muise agreed that the Nova Scotia government should review its list if many firefighters are coming down with other types of cancer.

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