New legislation to expand coverage for Manitoba firefighters suffering from occupational cancers


Manitoba is set to introduce new legislation to expand the coverage for firefighters from occupational cancers.

In the throne speech on Tuesday, the province announced five additional cancers will be deemed occupational.

They include pancreatic, thyroid, penile, ovarian and cervical.

“It’s really become a crisis in the firefighting community, not only in Canada, but around the world, because we are now seeing with the new science that firefighters have continual exposure to these carcinogens that over time cause cancer,” said Alex Forrest, president of the Manitoba Professional Firefighters Association, during an interview with CTV Winnipeg Friday morning.

Forrest said the new legislation will serve as a template across Canada and around the world and will assist dozens of firefighters now fighting for WCB coverage.

“We’re now recognizing women’s reproductive cancers because I believe in the last number of years women’s reproductive cancers have not been given the appropriate attention that it now is in Manitoba,” Forrest said.

The legislation has been a work in progress for over 25 years concerning occupational health and cancer around the world, according to Forest, and people are just now realizing the level of danger firefighters face.

“Cancer is now the number one killer of firefighters around the world,” said Forrest. “Every single time firefighters go into a house, you are going to be exposed to anywhere from five or six times the levels of carcinogens than the normal population will be exposed to.”

Research is ongoing to develop better protective gear for the first responders but Forrest said it is difficult to protect the firefighters from all the carcinogens without wearing something like a plastic hazmat suit to fight fires.

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