The Whitehorse Firefighters Association is asking for more cancers to be added to the list of presumptive conditions under health and safety.
“We’re one of the few industries that there’s almost no way we can ever possibly control the environment we go into, we try to control that with our gear but we still get exposed to these chemicals,” said Nicholas O’Carroll, representing the association.
Right now there are 10 cancers listed as presumptive conditions within the legislation. Since 2011, when the legislation was most recently updated, science has developed that shows links between several more cancers, said O’Carroll.
The government is currently in the process of rewriting the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Act, allowing for changes.
Right now seven additional cancers are on the list to be added, including multiple myeloma, primary site prostate cancer, primary site skin cancer, primary site breast cancer, primary site cervical cancer, primary site ovarian cancer and primary site penile cancer.
“A lot of our members who come into the fire service are fitter than the average person and actually have a lower chance of getting cancers. But then as the exposures continue, we go from being lower than the general public to three to four times higher when it comes to cancers from our exposure in the workplace,” said O’Carroll.
“So this presumptive legislation basically acknowledges that there’s a lot of science out there showing that these types of cancers can be caused by the fire service.”
An additional two – pancreatic and thyroid – are still under negotiation.
Right now both pancreatic and thyroid cancer are not covered in any other jurisdictions.
The Yukon would be the first, but Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, said the science is still under review by the department.
Mostyn said he has asked the Firefighters Association to provide peer-reviewed evidence for the department to review ahead of bringing the two cancers forward for the list.
“I’m certainly not against adding to the list. I’ve got intimate experience with pancreatic cancer. I know how terrible that disease is. But I really want to see what the evidence says about how those two cancers applied to firefighters,” said Mostyn.
“I think it’s important we’re in the business of using evidence to make our decisions,” he said.
Mostyn said the new Workers’ Safety and Compensation Act will bring a number of important changes.
“It’s been something that’s been needed for a very long time. I’m really, really happy to be bringing it forward and I think it’s a great thing for the territory that is going to benefit all Yukoners,” he said.
O’Carroll insisted that the science exists for adding thyroid and pancreatic cancer to the list – and he said he has been getting support from the NDP and the Yukon Party ahead of the legislation being reintroduced in the upcoming fall legislative sitting.
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