Legislation Targets Increased Cancer Rates Among Firefighters


By: Linda Dean Campbell, February, 2018

This session I have filed a number of pieces of legislation pertaining to pressing public safety issues across the Commonwealth. I would like to highlight the following bill that I filed that just received a public hearing and excellent support from the committee and the public safety community:

.3520, An Act establishing a municipal bulk purchasing program for industrial washing machines for fire departments. This legislation would create a bulk purchasing program for extractors, which are specialized washing machines that are used to clean and reduce toxins routinely and continuously absorbed in firefighter equipment and gear.

Firefighters are at an elevated risk for cancer due to the toxic mix of carcinogens they are exposed to when responding to most fires. The high temperatures greatly elevate absorption of the carcinogens into the skin and personal protective equipment of the responders. Boston’s Fire commissioner Joseph Finn has been a firefighter for 32 years and every month he learns of another member who has been diagnosed with cancer. Over his career he has known of nearly 200 colleagues who have died from cancer.

One issue that many municipalities face is that extractors are very expensive to purchase and can cost upwards of $9,800. This program would allow cities and town to join together in purchasing the extractors at a reduced price, making extractors more accessible to a wider range of communities.

This legislation is the result of coordination with Fire Chiefs across Massachusetts, cancer experts, and the Executive Office of Public Safety and many advocacy groups. The bill has already received the support of the Fire Chiefs of Massachusetts and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, as well as The Last Call Foundation whose founder, Kathy Crosby-Bell, who came to testify at the hearing. This measure will not solve this alarming trend of increased cancer rates among our firefighters but it is an important measure that can have great impact in reducing this unacceptable trend.