CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — New Jersey passed a firefighter cancer bill Monday, joining 47 states who already passed the bill, and leaving South Carolina as one of only two states without this protection for firefighters.
Roger Odachowski, president of the South Carolina Professional Firefighter Association, says that firefighters are not just saving lives, they are putting their own health at risk. These risks include inhaling carcinogens in smoke that can lead to cancer. He says that this cancer should be considered a type of injury sustained in the line of duty.
He also said without this bill, it is hard to attract new firefighters to the state, possibly leaving stations with fewer firefighters to protect the public from fire-related emergencies.
SC State Representative Nancy Mace is the primary sponsor of this cancer presumption bill, which would compensate firefighters who get cancer as a result of their job.
Mace says to her, it is common sense to want to expand protections for firefighters who have been in the line of duty for 10 years or more, especially for certain types of cancer.
Odachowski agrees, saying almost 70% of firefighter deaths are linked to cancer.
According to Rep. Mace, the cancer presumption bill is in committee now, and she hopes to get it passed through the House in January.
Rep. Mace says it has been a long process, and that right now supporters are pushing for community members to contact South Carolina legislators to voice support for the bill.