Female firefighters who develop reproductive cancers to get workers' compensation

The province says it will amend the Workers’ Compensation Act so that female firefighters who get ovarian or cervical cancer on the job will qualify for benefits.

Firefighters 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, says head of union

Premier Rachel Notley and Labour Minister Christina Gray meet with Calgary firefighters Mike Andrusco, left, and Shalee Stair at the Calgary Firefighters Training Academy on Friday. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The province says it will amend the Workers' Compensation Act so that female firefighters who get ovarian or cervical cancer on the job will qualify for benefits.

As well, the minimum exposure for testicular cancer will be dropped from 20 years to 10, Premier Rachel Notley and Labour Minister Christina Gray announced Friday in Calgary.

Firefighters are six times more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with cancer, says Craig Macdonald of the Alberta Fire Fighters Association.

"A century ago, typically homes were furnished with wood, steel and glass. Today it's full of plastics, foams and coatings, which create a toxic soup of carcinogens when they burn," he said.

"Ironically, the most dangerous thing about our occupation [which] involves running into a fire is actually not the flames, it's the smoke that we're seeing every day."

He said adding female reproductive cancers to the benefit eligibility will strengthen the diversity of the profession and make Alberta a leader in helping protect firefighters.

"We are ensuring that firefighters, regardless of their gender, get the help and support that they need," Gray said in a release.

The minimum exposure period for the female-specific cancers will be 10 years.

There are more than 14,000 full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer firefighters working in Alberta, according to the province. About eight per cent are women.