North Carolina Firefighters Lobby for Presumptive Coverage of Mesothelioma and Other Cancers

The fight for presumptive coverage of cancer continues as North Carolina remains the only state in the country that does not extend this right to firefighters who put their lives on the line each time they suit up and are potentially exposed to a whole host of cancer-causing carcinogens. While the state does extend certain benefits to surviving family members of firefighters who pass away from one of four listed cancers, North Carolina does not pay for medical coverage of the affected firefighter during his or her lifetime, which can leave the victim and his or her family with extraordinary medical bills.

Across the state, North Carolina firefighter groups are lobbying state lawmakers to expand workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters who contract certain forms of cancer and for that diagnosis to be presumed to have been caused due to exposure to toxic chemicals while in the line of service. In 2019, the North Carolina house of representatives passed one such bill that would label nine forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, as occupational diseases and would have provided medical coverage to those affected under North Carolina’s existing Workers’ Compensation Act.

However, the state senate ultimately blocked the bill and has maintained that it as a chamber is opposed to expanding workers’ compensation benefits in the state. Despite the changing situational realities that firefighters face when they rush into burning buildings to save those trapped inside, North Carolina legislators continue to put up barriers to benefits that would help ensure that brave first responders have their healthcare needs taken care of when they receive a devastating cancer diagnosis.

Although firefighting has of course always been an inherently dangerous occupation, the threats that these men and women face today have evolved as more and more common household items are manufactured with plastics and other chemicals that can emit toxic fumes when fires break out. Even with protective equipment and respirators, firefighters are still frequently exposed to carcinogenic materials in the fumes of burning and dangerous buildings, particularly if the structure was constructed with asbestos-containing parts.

While asbestos, a known carcinogen that is directly linked to developing mesothelioma cancer, has been effectively banned in new construction for decades, many dwellings and other buildings built in decades past still contain insulation and other materials made with the substance. When that asbestos is disturbed due to a fire or other emergency, asbestos fibers can pollute the surrounding air and put those nearby at risk of inhaling the carcinogenic material and eventually developing the rare and deadly form of cancer.

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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.





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