Firefighters demand action on cancer and PFAS blood contamination

The widow of a firefighter who died from cancer has made some big demands to prove his “suffering was not in vain”.The widow of a firefighter who died from cancer has urged fire services to implement annual health screenings, saying it would please her husband to know his “suffering was not in vain”.ACT Fire and Rescue firefighter Ken Wood died in 2017 after being diagnosed with colorectal, liver, lung and secondary lung cancer.At a ceremony on Friday to add his name to the National Emergency Services Memorial, his wife Robyn made the push for annual health screenings for firefighters.She also joined calls to add more cancers to presumptive legislation and introduce therapeutic blood donations for firefighters.“Ken was, I believe, the first to establish under firefighters’ presumptive workers’ compensation legislation that his death was caused by his occupation,” she said.“This has led the way for other firefighters past and current to proceed with their claims.”Mr Wood experienced a toluene diisocyanate spill on the Federal Highway in 1982. “He and his fellow firefighters, assisted by the United Firefighters Union, fought a legal battle for 16 years to win some small amount of workers’ compensation,” his widow said.“While the compensation scheme has improved since, and firefighter uniforms, foams, trucks and practices have all improved, firefighters are getting cancer at higher rates than ever.“With all of this in mind, it is my greatest wish that we keep challenging governments to put into place comprehensive health screening for all firefighters throughout their careers.”Ms Wood noted early intervention increased the chance of survival and cure.“If we can reduce the risk of firefighter cancer, Ken would be pleased to know that his suffering was not in vain,” she said.The United Firefighters Union of Australia is leading calls for the number of cancers covered by firefighter presumptive legislation to be expanded from 12 to 19.Union president Greg McConville said the seven additional cancers would be thyroid, pancreatic, skin, cervical, ovarian, penile and lung cancer.The union also wants therapeutic blood donations to be allowed as a method for firefighters to reduce the concentration of PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl) substances in their blood.PFAS substances are linked to cancer and have been used in firefighting foams.“Firefighters who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting others deserve to be protected under law when they develop cancer as a result of the deadly toxins they are exposed to in the course of their work,” Mr McConville said.The union is calling on all political parties and candidates at the federal election to commit to addressing the issues.Originally published as Widow joins firefighters in demanding action on cancer and PFAS blood contamination