Veterans Affairs Committee Investigates Cancer Links for Firefighters, Says Barrar
Rep. Steve Barrar listens to testimony at the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hearing on cancer rates and firefighters.  
HARRISBURG-- At a joint hearing of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness and the Labor and Industry committees, members heard testimony confirming the link between firefighting and cancer has grown, said Rep. Steve Barrar, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Donald Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Service Institute and the Law, presented evidence from a study by the United States Fire Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety that firefighters have a higher risk of developing cancers of the respiratory, urinary and digestive system.

“The population of firefighters in the study has a rate of mesothelioma is two times greater than the rate of the U.S. population as a whole,” Konkle said. “This was the first study ever to identify an excess of mesothelioma in U.S. firefighters.”

“This is striking evidence justifying Act 46, which presumes some cancers contracted by firefighters are work related,” said Barrar.

The hearing was held to gather updated information on firefighters and cancer rates.

“Cancers are definitely associated with exposures to the contaminants to which firefighters may be exposed,” Konkle said.

Since Act 46 requires municipalities to cover ill firefighters under Workers’ Compensation, these costs have risen. According to Edward Troxell, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), a study conducted by PSAB found that Workers’ Compensation costs for those who responded to its survey saw a 27.7 percent increase in those costs.

“This means we must be vigilant in creating more effective Workers’ Compensation standards so we do not place unfair burdens on local governments, while protecting those who sacrificed their health while protecting us,” Barrar said.

The committees also heard testimony on other illnesses that could affect firefighters in greater numbers, including Parkinson’s disease.

“This is an area we must investigate further,” Barrar said.

Prior to opening the hearing, the committees heard from U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on his House resolution to immediately exempt emergency service volunteers from being counted as full-time employees under the Affordable Care Act.

“As 97 percent of the Commonwealth’s firefighters are volunteers, our emergency service system will fall into crisis if this part of the law is not changed,” Barrar said. “If the organizations did purchase the insurance as approved under ObamaCare, many would be left without funds for the gear and vehicles needed for their work.” 

Representative Steve Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
267.207.0207 /
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