Sudbury firefighters fought hard for WSIB change, president says

Six more cancers have been recognized as occupational diseases for firefighters around the province.

Newly extended WSIB coverage is retroactive to 1960, affects numerous families

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is broadening its coverage for the families of firefighters, thanks to a lobby by Sudbury firefighters. (CBC)

Six more cancers have been recognized as occupational diseases for firefighters around the province, thanks to a campaign spearheaded by the professional firefighter's association in Sudbury.

Claire Pietroban's husband Dennis was a career firefighter in Sudbury, and she says he must have been exposed to all kinds of chemicals.

“There were times when he was involved with hazardous materials and stuff they didn't know at the time what the effects would be,” she said. “[That was a time]  You just did your job.”

Last year, Dennis Pietroban was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and died a couple of months later

The president of the Sudbury professional firefighter's association said multiple myeloma is now one of six cancers considered job-related diseases for firefighters and will fall under Worker Safety and Insurance Board coverage. Rob Hyndman said the other diseases are breast and testicular cancer.

By 2017, prostate, lung, and skin cancer will also be considered an occupational disease for firefighters.

“Going back to the retroactive date of 1960, firefighters are being diagnosed with these cancers more than the average individual, so the science has been proven,” Hyndman said.

It took seven years of lobbying before the legislation was changed earlier this week, he added. The benefits are retro-active to 1960, and will affect a significant number of families.

Firefighters can't escape exposure to carcinogens, Hyndman added.

“Even with our best protection available, we're still exposed to the cancer-causing toxins in the smoke through the bunker gear, through the absorption into the skin.”


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