Presumptive Cancer Disability Initiative
What is a Presumptive Disability Worker’s Compensation Law?
A presumptive disability law links a particular occupation with a disease or condition that has been shown to be a hazard associated with that occupation. As a result of this linkage, if an individual employed in the occupation covered by the presumption contracts a disease or condition that is specified in the presumptive law, then that disease or condition is presumed to have come from that occupation. As a result, the burden of proof shifts from the employee to the employer to demonstrate that the condition was not in fact associated with the occupation but with another cause. For firefighters and emergency medical responders, scientific evidence has demonstrated an increased risk for heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. At this time, most of the United States as well as Canadian provinces have some form of presumptive law that applies to firefighters and emergency response personnel. These laws vary greatly between states and provinces. Currently, North Carolina is one of only seven states that does not protect their firefighters with some form of presumptive disability law.
What is the Firefighter Cancer Problem?
(From Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service by the Fire Fighter Cancer Support Network, 2013)
Firefighter cancer is a looming personal catastrophe for each and every firefighter. Cancer is the most dangerous and unrecognized threat to the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters. Multiple studies, including the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) cancer study, have repeatedly demonstrated credible evidence and biologic creditability for statistically higher rates of multiple types of cancers in fire fighters compared to the general American population including:
- Testicular cancer (2.02 times greater risk)
- Multiple myeloma (1.53 times greater risk)
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (1.51 times greater risk)
- Skin cancer (1.39 times greater risk)
- Prostate cancer (1.28 times greater risk)
- Malignant melanoma (1.31 times great risk)
- Brain cancer (1.31 times greater risk)
- Colon cancer (1.21 times great risk)
- Leukemia (1.14 times greater risk)
- Breast cancer in women (preliminary study results from the San Francisco Fire Department)