Some Democrats in the Legislature say a state health care fund for firefighters and other first responders should cover breast cancer treatments.
State Senator Curtis Hertel (East Lansing) says firefighters are commonly exposed to benzene and other chemicals linked to breast cancer. He says it’s only fair that breast cancer is covered by the first responders fund.
“Those that protect us should always be protected,” he said.
Detroit Senior Firefighter Elizabeth Szmrecsanyi says women in her profession are three times more likely than the average woman to develop breast cancer.
“We put our lives on the line, just like our brethren do in the fire department,” she said, “and I don’t see why females – why our parts shouldn’t be covered just as the gentlemen already are.”
Unions for police, firefighters and other first responders support the expansion.
Hertel says policymakers were slow to recognize the risk to female firefighters, in part, because there are so many more men in the profession. But he says new studies show the dangers to female first responders.
“Some of it’s just common sense,” he said. “We know that dangerous chemicals like benzene lead to breast cancer, and that’s what people in a fire are fighting. So, oftentimes, people are going to have exposure and we should make sure they’re protected.”
Michigan’s first responder health care fund already covers 10 types of cancer – including prostate and testicular cancer. It was created in 2014, but it wasn’t funded by the Legislature until this year.