Firefighter Cancer



The effects on firefighters (career and volunteer) who have been exposed to carcinogens at fire scenes have been the subject of scientific research conducted worldwide. The research has found a clear link between firefighting as an occupation and the increased risk of developing some cancers. These include: brain, prostate, testicular, breast, kidney, bladder, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ureter, colorectal and oesphageal cancers. If a firefighter with a certain number of years’ service develops these types of cancer, then that cancer is considered to have been caused by occupational firefighting exposure to carcinogens at fire scenes and in the clean up afterwards.

A number of Australian States and Territories have already introduced legislation that creates a legal presumption that if a firefighter (career or volunteer) is diagnosed with a particular type of cancer then there is a legal presumption that the cancer resulted from their employment or engagement as a firefighter. This type of legislation is called presumptive legislation.

A key benefit of presumptive legislation is that it provides the timeframes for cumulative exposure. For example:

Type of Cancer Latency period
Brain 5 years
Leukemia 5 years
Testicular 10 Years
Breast 10 years
Kidney 15 years
Bladder 15 years
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 15 years
Multiple Myeloma 15 years
Prostate 15 years
Ureter 15 years
Colorectal 15 years
Oesphageal 25 years

Many firefighters fighting occupational cancer don’t claim Workers’ Compensation. They access sick leave and other leave entitlements including income protection insurance. They also fund their own medical treatment. This is unnecessary where workers’ compensation entitlements exist. Workers compensation claims for occupational cancer are being accepted even if presumptive legislation doesn’t apply or exist.

If you are diagnosed with cancer you should consider the availability of workers’ compensation benefits and contact James Law.

If you have any questions, please call for a free consultation.