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Florida bill aims to save firefighters from cancer with decontamination tools

'This grant program is a crucial step'
Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 18:51:42-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Lawmakers are considering bills next year that could help save the lives of Florida’s firefighters.

The legislation, in both the House (HB 487) and Senate (SB 1092), would create a grant program to ensure fire departments across the state have access to decontamination equipment and training to use it.

Firefighters are often exposed to burning plastics and synthetics, which release cancer-causing carcinogens. It’s so bad, those in the profession face a 14 percent increased risk of cancer death, nationally.

“Firefighter families should not have to face cancer because their loved one selflessly served our communities," said the bill's sponsor in the House, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand). "This grant program is a crucial step in preventing a disease that causes the majority of firefighter deaths in the line of duty."

Firefighters believe it to be crucial, too. Cpt. Jason Pittinger, with the Tallahassee Fire Department, said decontamination can dramatically reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals.

“Post-fire de-con has shown to reduce those contaminates by about 85 percent," he said. "That 85 percent would have otherwise been transferred to our stations and back to our homes. It’s important to mitigate those risks.”

The bill advanced from its first House committee with bipartisan support, last week.

It has the backing of State Fie Marshal and CFO Jimmy Patronis who called the legislation another important step in the state's efforts to fight cancer among firefighters.

A spokesperson for the CFO said the office had requested an initial sum of $150,000 to fund the program but expected to ask for more as the bill moves through the legislature.