As more and more firefighters are diagnosed with various forms of cancers, it has become obvious that there is a link between their work and their health. Until recently, Ohio firefighters had a difficult time obtaining compensation for cancer diagnoses caused by their work conditions. Fortunately, Ohio lawmakers changed all that with legislation that became effective early this year.
On January 4, 2017, Ohio governor John Kasich signed a new law that labels cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters in the state. This change makes it far easier for those diagnosed with cancer to obtain compensation for losses, such as medical bills, treatment and future earnings.
Scientific research proves that "firefighters are 100 percent more likely to develop mesothelioma than civilians." - Doug Stern, Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters (OAPFF)
Although studies identified a clear link between this kind of work and asbestos-related cancers years ago, the OAPFF wanted the legislation to cover other types of cancer as well. After more than 30 years of fighting for this legislation, Ohio now has laws that are similar to about 30 other states.
Why do firefighters get cancer more than other people?
Asbestos is a fire-resistant and insulating fiber that was mixed with innumerable building materials in the 1930s through the 1970s. Most homes and commercial buildings built during that time contain asbestos.
When these structures burn or the materials containing asbestos are disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air and easily inhaled by anyone not wearing breathing protection. These fibers can cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lung lining, as well as other types of cancer. The fibers also cling to clothing and other substances, putting others at risk.
If you are or were a firefighter, working in and around old burning buildings constantly exposed you to asbestos fibers. The new legislation makes it easier for you to obtain benefits from the Ohio worker's compensation system or from an at-fault third party. However, the law has its limitations and exceptions. Additionally, symptoms of asbestos exposure may not show up for decades, making your claim harder to prove. An experienced asbestos claim attorney can help you understand your options.