HARRISBURG,  April 11, 2011 –  The state Senate Appropriations committee today approved a measure that will ensure firefighters that they and their families will be protected financially if they contract cancer on the job, state Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione announced.

“We’ve made terrific progress in recognizing the risk for firefighters and acknowledging the responsibilities of their communities,” Tartaglione said. “I’m gratified that we were able to bring everyone together to get this far.”

Last year, Tartaglione ushered House Bill 1231 through the Senate but it was vetoed by Gov. Rendell after municipalities expressed concerns about the cost.

A new bill, Senate Bill 654, passed the Appropriations Committee today with some minor changes to accommodate local concerns.  It cleared the Senate Labor and Industry Committee last week.

The bill specifically adds cancer to the Workers’ Compensation Act as a work-related illness if no other obvious cause for the disease is present and amends the law to include cancer suffered by firefighters and caused a group of known carcinogens recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  

The measure covers professional and volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania that have been on the job for more than four years and have been exposed to known carcinogens.  There are provisions in the bill that allow the presumption of job-related cancer to be rebutted by evidence of cancer-causing activity – such as smoking —  during a firefighter’s non-duty hours.

There are more than 3,500 professional and 60,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania.