Grant takes aim at firefighter cancer risk


By Jason Hawk - jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com



Amherst fire chief Jim Wilhelm talks about changes brought on his department by Senate Bill 27.

Amherst fire chief Jim Wilhelm talks about changes brought on his department by Senate Bill 27.


Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

FIREFIGHTERS AND CANCER

A new law was signed July 9 by President Donald Trump requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a registry on firefighters and cancer.

For now, the long-term effects of fires on public servants remains unclear. In July 2016, FEMA launched a multi-city research project to help gauge the link between firefighting and cancer.

A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed cancer is a leading cause of death for firefighters compared to the general population. It showed exposure to carcinogens through skin contamination and inhalation to be a major issue.

Firefighters are:

• Twice as likely to get testicular cancer.

• Twice as likely to get mesothelioma.

• At 1.62 greater risk of getting esophageal cancer.

• At 1.53 times more likely to get multiple myeloma.

• At 1.51 times greater risk for non-Hodgekins lymphoma.

• At 1.39 times greater risk for skin cancer.

• At 1.31 times greater risk for brain cancer.

• At 1.28 times greater risk for prostate cancer.

A $12,085 grant will help better protect Amherst firefighters from a danger more insidious than flames — cancer.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation has awarded the cash to purchase carcinogen-resistant hoods and gloves. The hoods are worn on the inside of helmets and seal around breathing apparatus and down to the firefighters’ shoulders.

“During my watch, I don’t want anybody to get cancer,” said fire chief Jim Wilhelm.

The grant comes as a result of Senate Bill 27, known as the Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act.

Palumbo was a Beachwood and Willowick fire captain who died of brain cancer, presumably linked to the conditions he worked in through the years. The act that bears his name allows firefighters diagnosed with occupational cancer to file claims with the BWC.

A representative from the BWC recently visited the fire station on Church Street for an inspection, part of the bureau’s sweeping new powers under the act.

The rep analyzed the Amherst fire department’s standard operating procedures, rules, and regulations, Wilhelm said.

Another result of the bill: The AFD has purchased about $44,000 worth of turnout gear — the ruggedized pants, coats, and boots firefighters wear on calls — as backups.

Following any call where there is smoke and heat, firefighters must now go through a decontamination process to remove carcinogens from their gear. They treat fires like hazardous materials incidents, because by any practical definition “that’s exactly what they are,” Wilhelm said.

A full cleaning of the gear can take a day, making backups a must, according to the chief.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Amherst fire chief Jim Wilhelm talks about changes brought on his department by Senate Bill 27.
https://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2018/08/web1_chief.jpgAmherst fire chief Jim Wilhelm talks about changes brought on his department by Senate Bill 27.

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com

FIREFIGHTERS AND CANCER

A new law was signed July 9 by President Donald Trump requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a registry on firefighters and cancer.

For now, the long-term effects of fires on public servants remains unclear. In July 2016, FEMA launched a multi-city research project to help gauge the link between firefighting and cancer.

A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed cancer is a leading cause of death for firefighters compared to the general population. It showed exposure to carcinogens through skin contamination and inhalation to be a major issue.

Firefighters are:

• Twice as likely to get testicular cancer.

• Twice as likely to get mesothelioma.

• At 1.62 greater risk of getting esophageal cancer.

• At 1.53 times more likely to get multiple myeloma.

• At 1.51 times greater risk for non-Hodgekins lymphoma.

• At 1.39 times greater risk for skin cancer.

• At 1.31 times greater risk for brain cancer.

• At 1.28 times greater risk for prostate cancer.