January marks firefighter cancer awareness month. To mark the occasion, the Montreal Firefighters Association is launching an awareness campaign, asking for a significant improvement on the list of cancers recognized as occupational diseases in Quebec.
Currently kidney, bladder and lung cancers are included on the list, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but the Montreal fire fighters association would like to see leukemia, brain and breast cancer included.
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According to the association, there is significant data proving these cancers are worth including. It says many provinces have already stepped up and recognized them.
Manitoba for example considers 19 cancers as occupational hazards while Quebec recognizes eight.
“Quebec firefighters are not second-class firefighters,” says Association President Chris Ross. “The fires that burn in Quebec do not burn any differently in the rest of Canada and and we deserve the same level of coverage every other firefighter across Canada has,” he adds.
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Ross says he would like to eventually see a national list rather than an individual province by province one.
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Cancer is the number one cause of death amongst firefighters. In Montreal, 56 have died of a cancer that has been recognized as a workplace illness since 2000, while three members have died on the emergency scene.
“Considering the list in Quebec is much smaller than elsewhere, if we had a larger list, we would probably have a lot more members that would be recognized,” says Ross.
“It’s not taking into account that there are a lot of members that are diagnosed [with cancer] and do recover or go on for many years before they do pass away. On any given year we probably have 30-40 members who are diagnosed with cancer, ”he adds.
The association’s campaign will promote and encourage prevention through safety measures including proper PPE and sanitary measures, preventive detection through access to cancer screening at a younger age and compensation when needed.
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