Victory for Ohio firefighters, governor signs presumptive cancer bill

Law passed after News 5 Investigation
Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-04 18:33:17-05

After a nearly decade-long legislative fight, Ohio firefighters won their battle to help their colleagues who are battling cancer. 

Ohio Governor John Kasich was surrounded by firefighters as he signed the Palumbo Act at the state capitol early Wednesday afternoon.

The law, renamed after Mike Palumbo, a Beachwood fire captain currently battling brain cancer, presumes firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer developed the disease as the result of numerous exposures to toxic chemicals at fire scenes. 

On Your Side Investigators were the first to share Palumbo’s story as part of our exclusive investigation last February which revealed Ohio was one of just 16 states that failed to recognize the link between fighting fires and cancer. 

The new law not only recognizes the link between firefighting and the deadly disease, but it also allows firefighters diagnosed with cancer to receive additional workers' compensation benefits, including money for medical costs and survivor benefits for their dependents.

However, the law will only apply to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer, such as lung, prostate, brain, and leukemia because several scientific studies have proven fighting fires increases the risk of developing those types of cancers. 

RELATED: INVESTIGATION: How Ohio fails to help firefighters facing cancer

Firefighters who smoke, are over the age of 75, or who served less than three years, are also exempt from what’s known as 'presumptive cancer coverage' under the new law. 

After the signing, there were many tears and hugs as firefighters celebrated their legislative victory. 

Palumbo said, “It’s amazing how many people pulled together. I’m very grateful.” 

Ohio Senator Tom Patton (R-District 24) first introduced presumptive cancer legislation in 2008. 

Despite several failed attempts, Patton continued fighting for the legislation, but it remained mired in bureaucracy. 

Patton credited News 5’s Investigation with forcing lawmakers to finally take action to help firefighters battling cancer. 

“It was your story, I think,” he said.