Idaho firefighters have fought for years to get the state’s workers compensation laws to recognize cancer as an occupational hazard, when it develops after they’re exposed to known cancer-causing substances while fighting fires. Today, after much debate, the Senate voted 28-7 in favor of SB 1273a, legislation that would create a “rebuttable presumption” that certain types of cancers are occupationally related for professional firefighters, under certain circumstances, including that the firefighter has not used tobacco products for 10 years prior to the diagnosis; and that an initial employment medical screening showed no sign of the cancer prior to starting work.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, the bill’s sponsor, said it’s “based on scientific research as to the dangers that professional firefighters face.” He said, “I know for some people it goes too far, for other people it doesn’t go far enough, but this is what the science shows.” McKenzie said the bill’s been in the works for four years. “It’s limited to those whose profession is to go into those fires and put themselves at a risk that they know is putting them in a much higher category to develop cancers that could shorten their life, but they’re doing it anyway,” he said. “It’s an appropriate policy based on what we know.” SB 1273a now moves to the House side.