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Supporters Push Measure to Cover Cancer Costs for Volunteer Firefighters Pfefferle

A billthat would provide cancer coverage for New York's 92,000 volunteer firefighters is being reintroduced in the state legislature this year.

The measure would cover several types of cancer presumed to be linked to firefighting.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline, an occupational and environmental medicine specialist at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, says firefighters are at much higher risk of cancer than the general population. Firefighters are exposed to carcinogens and other toxins found in burning buildings.

"More building structures and components are now made of plastic,” Dr. Moline said. “They burn differently; they burn hotter, and they elaborate far more carcinogens than a traditional wood. And the wood smoke in and of itself is carcinogenic from some of the products of combustion."

Along with the stress of battling cancer, volunteer firefighters are also concerned about the mounting costs of medical treatments, according to Robert McConville, president of the Fireman’s Association of the State of York (FASNY).

"Co-payments for some of the drugs that they need are astronomical,” McConville said. “The fact that he has to help his family and just the fact that a person has to travel 50, 60, 80 miles just to get his treatments every day or every third day. It's very hard financially on the volunteer."  

The measure, sponsored by Senator Mike Nozzolio (R-Seneca Falls) and Assemblymember Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), won the unanimous support of the State Senate last year, but it stalled in an Assembly committee. 

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.