|ACT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY||2007-2008|
NO. 42. AN ACT RELATING TO FIREFIGHTERS AND CANCER CAUSED BY EMPLOYMENT.
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS
The general assembly finds the following:
(1) In the course of fighting fires, firefighters are frequently exposed to many different products of combustion, diesel smoke, hydrocarbons, cyanides, plastics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, chloroform, soot, styrene, and formaldehyde, all of which are known carcinogens. Firefighters may also be exposed to heavy metals, carcinogenic chemicals, volatile gases, minerals, and other substances with acute toxic effects.
(2) Scientific studies performed both nationally and internationally have recognized that firefighters have significantly greater incidents of certain cancers than the general population.
(3) Gathering and establishing evidence of work-related causation for such cancers is difficult and costly and requires significant expert testimony.
(4) Approximately 28 states and the provinces of Canada have adopted legislation creating a presumption that certain cancers suffered by eligible firefighters are caused by exposure during their employment as firefighters. Vermont adopts this rebuttable presumption to protect the safety and
well-being of its firefighters.
(5) The Vermont league of cities and towns (VCLT) in its March 23, 2007 report hypothesized that this act would result in a significant increase in workers’ compensation premiums for firefighters. A subsequent economic analysis questioned the VLCT’s projected premium rate increase because it failed to take into consideration the five conditions precedent before a firefighter may take advantage of the rebuttable presumption. Further, the medical data used was outdated; was for only one year, rather than the average of several years; and used cost figures for all members regardless of age or types of cancer rather then the median cost of treating adult males with the limited number of cancers identified in this act.
(6) The VLCT analysis relied on birth-to-death probability statistics from the National Cancer Institute and did not acknowledge that men 70 years of age or older in the general population are three times more likely than men between the ages of 60 and 69 to contract cancer. This is significant because Vermont firefighters over the age of 65 cannot take advantage of the rebuttable presumption created by this act.
(7) The increased cancer risks for firefighters should motivate the VLCT and its member municipalities to develop and improve safe firefighting practices, including the purchase and use of improved protective equipment, which will reduce the frequency and extent of firefighters’ exposure to carcinogenic materials, thereby reducing the incidents of cancer for Vermont’s firefighters.
(8) Any firefighter seeking to avail himself or herself of the rebuttable presumption created by this act will necessarily be required to live a healthier lifestyle, thereby reducing the overall cost of health care in Vermont, regardless of whether these costs are paid by a private health insurer, the VLCT health insurance trust, or workers’ compensation insurance carriers.
Sec. 2. 21 V.S.A. § 601(11)(E), (F), and (G) are added to read:
(E) In the case of a firefighter, as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 3151(3) and (4), who suffers death or disability from a cancer listed in subdivision (iv) of this subdivision, the firefighter shall be presumed to have suffered the cancer as a result of exposure to conditions in the line of duty, unless it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the cancer was caused by non‑service‑connected risk factors or non‑service‑connected exposure, provided:
(i) The firefighter completed an initial and any subsequent cancer screening evaluations as recommended by the American Cancer Society based on the age and sex of the firefighter prior to becoming a firefighter or within two years of the effective date of this act, and the evaluation indicated no evidence of cancer.
(ii) The firefighter was engaged in firefighting duties or other hazardous activities over a period of at least five years in Vermont prior to the diagnosis.
(iii) The presumption shall not apply to any firefighter who has used tobacco products at any time within ten years of the date of diagnosis.
(iv) The disabling cancer shall be limited to leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, and cancers originating in the bladder, brain, colon, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, liver, pancreas, skin, or testicles.
(v) The firefighter is under the age of 65.
(F) A firefighter who is diagnosed with cancer within ten years of the last active date of employment as a firefighter shall be eligible for benefits under this subdivision. The date of injury shall be the date of the last injurious exposure as a firefighter.
Approved: May 22, 2007
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street