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Firefighter health care fund should cover breast cancer, say state Democrats

Oct 6, 2016

Some Democratic state lawmakers are calling for the Legislature to add breast cancer to the list of conditions covered by a state health care fund for first responders. The fund was created two years ago.

State Senator Curtis Hertel said policymakers were slow to recognize the risk to female firefighters, in part, because there are so many more men in the profession. But he said new studies show the dangers to female first responders.

“Some of it’s just common sense. We know that dangerous chemicals like benzene lead to breast cancer, and that’s what people in a fire are fighting,” Hertel said. “So, oftentimes people are going to have exposure and we should make sure they’re protected.”

Detroit Senior Firefighter Elizabeth Szmrecsanyi said women in her profession are, in fact, three times more likely than the average woman to develop breast cancer.

“[It’s] no more scary than fighting fires, but, yes, it is scary and it’s alarming that we weren’t included in the original bill," she said. 

The fund already covers 10 other types of cancer, including prostate and testicle cancer. Hertel said it’s only fair that breast cancer is included too.