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Senate Bill 27 passed the Ohio House with a 72-20 vote and pending Senate concurrence, will soon head to the governor’s desk. The bill recognizes a link between the occupation of firefighting and contracting cancer.
Firefighter who contract cancer while on the job will be eligible for workers compensation benefits. There are 38 other states with similar legislation.
One lawmaker in support of the bill explained one in 14 Columbus firefighters have contracted occupational cancer. That’s in comparison to one in 192 in the general population.
It was more than two years ago when ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates exposed the hidden cancer danger and the state’s failure to protect those who protect us.
“The silent risk is cancer, cancer due to the exposure over a career,” Representative Michael O’Brien said. “Over a career of saving lives and saving property.”
The Ohio House renamed the bill “The Michael Louis Palumbo Act” in honor of a Beachwood firefighter who is battling occupational brain cancer.
"The OAPFF is pleased that the Michael Louis Palumbo Act has passed the house getting Ohio Fire Fighters afflicted with occupational cancer one step closer to having the protections they need to get better,” said Mike Taylor OAPFF President. “Fire Fighters work in a toxic soup of chemicals and carcinogens and are getting more aggressive cancers at a younger age. This bill recognized those dangers and is working to providing workers comp benefits for those getting sick form on the job exposures.”
ABC 6 has followed the journey of Columbus Firefighter Mark Rine as he advocates for legislation, protection and prevention all while battling melanoma cancer. He was only given a few years to live.
"I never thought we'd get here and I never thought it would happen," Rine said. “Cancer's hard enough but this bill will insure these families still have hope."
Those opposed to the firefighter cancer bill were concerned it would be too much of a financial strain on local cities and townships. The Ohio Municipal League was the most outspoken in committee hearings earlier this year.
Similar bills have failed four previous times.
“At no point in time did we want to put something in here that would hurt Ohio,” Rine said. “I wanted to make sure our firefighters were safe and taken care of and I'm just beyond excited."