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Firefighters battle occupational cancer: Many sickened first responders are being denied workers' comp benefits



It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Every day firefighters risk their own lives to protect the lives of others. Firefighters like Fire Captain Mike Palumbo.

"He was drawn to service, I think," said Chrissy.

But a few years ago, far from any smoke or fire, something else caught up with Palumbo while hiking near the family's home in Beachwood, Ohio

"I knew as soon as we got there, something was wrong," Chrissy told correspondent Tony Dokoupil. "I just tried to get back in the car." He was like, 'No, I'm fine, I'm fine.' And I just panicked. "

She rushed Mike to the hospital, where they learned he had stage 4 brain cancer.

Dokoupil asked," What do "Do you when you get that kind of news?"

"I literally crawled into it and prayed into it," Chrissy replied, crying. "I had my kids brought in," cause I did not know if they'd ever see him again. "

 firefighter-mike-palumbo-and-his-son-nicholas.jpg" height = "465" width = "620" class = "lazyload" data-srcset = "https://cbsnews3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/16/78fab0d5-3970-4a4a-b6cb-78bc680d2728/thumbnail/620x465/ b26d91f845b9c20cddbebd88407cbef8 / firefighter-mike-palumbo-and-his-son-nicholas.jpg 1x, https://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/16/78fab0d5-3970-4a4a-b6cb-78bc680d2728 /thumbnail/1240x930/96f3575884a4bc1ba92a2ba05bf355a4/firefighter-mike-palumbo-and-his-son-nicholas.jpg 2x "srcset =" data: image / svg + xml,% 3Csvg% 20xmlns% 3D'http% 3A% 2F% 2Fwww. w3.org% 2F2000% 2Fsvg '% 20viewBox% 3D'0% 200% 20620% 20465'% 2F% 3E "/> </span><figcaption class= Ohio Firefighter Mike Palumbo and his son, Nicholas.

Family photo

                      

Mike said "Mike has been so healthy." It's just so much-boggling that you have this young, healthy, strong, happy guy. And then you're in a snap of a finger, your life is turned upside -down. "

For Palumbo's family, his diagnosis is a shock, but in fact it's part of an alarming national trend. Dr. Jeffrey Burgess at the University of Arizona.

"The cancer risk that firefighters have is unique to being a firefighter." Burgess said.

He said the biggest danger to firefighters today has changed from the fires to the smoke of those fires produce.

Since 2002,

Boston Fire Chief Joseph Finn said, "We have about 13 members right now who are battling various stages of cancers, active members. "

Finn showed Dokoupil a memorial wall:" All the black-and-whites are members who have passed away from occupational cancer. "

Since 1990, Finn said, cancer has killed more than 200 of his colleagues.

 boston-fire-department-memorial-wall-promo.jpg "height =" 465 "width =" 620 "class =" lazyload "data- srcset = "https://cbsnews3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/13/a4f207ed-5e13-4f00-b537-d094db74e0ba/thumbna http://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/13/a4f207ed-5e13-4f00-b537 -d094db74e0ba / thumbnail / 1240x930g2 / a54af4277e2b6775816f688d5a1d9638 / boston-fire-department-memorial-wall-promo.jpg 2x "srcset =" data: image / svg + xml,% 3Csvg% 20xmlns% 3D'http% 3A% 2F% 2Fwww. w3.org% 2F2000% 2Fsvg '% 20viewBox% 3D'0% 200% 20620% 20465'% 2F% 3E "/> </span><figcaption class= A memorial wall at the Boston Fire Department.

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"It certainly outnumbers it at least ten, 20, 30 to one," Finn replied.

That's a change from the past, Finn said. And scientists believe it may be linked to another change in modern building materials.

"Everything you buy today is laced with plastic," Finn said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes formaldehyde, asbestos and arsenic.

Adding to the risk is an age-old tradition in firefighting: a celebration of soot as a sign of good work.

Long ago, being dirty was a badge of honor to a firefighter: "The dirtier you were, looked like the more you'd done and that you were the guy who got the job done," Finn said.

 firefighters-620.jpg "height =" 350 "width =" 620 "class =" lazyload "data-srcset =" https://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/13 /e2870b73-8090-481a-b656-7184522796cc/thumbnail/620x350/bf4a0afdabf65342daa227e6f350586d/firefighters-620.jpg 1x, https://cbsnews3.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/13/e2870b73-8090- 481a-b656-7184522796cc / thumbnail / 1240x700 / 212a7ad196d696f15f9e3a7d861fb43f / firefighters-620.jpg 2x "srcset =" data: image / svg + xml,% 3Csvg% 20xmlns% 3D'http% 3A% 2F% 2Fwww.w3.org% 2F2000 % 2Fsvg '% 20viewBox% 3D'0% 200% 20620% 20350'% 2F% 3E "/> </span><figcaption class= Scientists believe they are living in cancers among firefighters which give off toxins and carcinogens when they burn.

CBS News

                      

Patrick Mahoney, 37, is a firefighter in

Now, as if surviving the flames and then fighting cancer were not enough, some firefighters are facing one another Baytown, Texas, in a city full of refineries and chemical plants.

In 2017, after 15 years of service in Baytown, Mahoney discovered a bulge on his neck – thyroid cancer.

"And we've had, at that point, one or two guys in my department that had cancer," Mahoney said. So, when I was diagnosed, I definitely felt that it was job-related. "

It's impossible to ever be sure what causes a particular case of cancer, but it is presumptuous or presumptive on the job and is entitled to compensation for work (like lost salary and medical coverage).

"My city's workers' comp carrier initially flat-out said, 'We do not cover cancer,'" Mahoney said.

He appealed his case and won, twice, but then the city of Baytown sued him to get the decision reversed.

"To be sued like this after they denied it is a betrayal," Mahoney said.

At issue, according to Baytown, Mahoney's thyroid cancer should be covered under Texas law. "Baytown has been seeking judicial clarification," the city explained in a statement adding $ 20,000 per case. "

And Mahoney's case is not unusual. Since 2012 in Texas, more than nine in firefighters have denied, according to the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.

Ohio, where Mike Palumbo worked his entire career.

Chrissy Palumbo said, "It's that simple." Somebody breaks a leg at work, it's covered. "

In 2017, Mike Louis Palumbo, Jr., Act, and Lawyers, said they would receive certain types of cancer on the job. It really means a lot to me, "Mike said two years ago.

Yet when Mike himself was too weak from the cancer treatments, his claim was denied.

He was only two months old when he was in his badge.

Ten months later, at just 49 years old, he died.

"It's not, like, he died in a fire and you can say this day at this time," Chrissy said.

"He died from all the fires," Dokoupil said.

"Yeah, you're telling me that because my husband died slowly from his job, that he did not get the same benefits?" 19659002] Two years after Palumbo's death, in Ohio, he was diagnosed with cancer.

Fire departments around the country, meanwhile, have begun to focus on prevention.

immediately after after a call.

"When they go to a fire, they get the cancer-causing chemicals over all their gear, "he said.

Tucson firefighters are thus taught that looking "dirty" "In the past they would not be able to share their gear." is not heroic, but dangerous. Air masks have to stay on, even after the flames are out.

 tuscon-firefighters-trousers-down-620.jpg "height =" 350 "width =" 620 "class =" lazyload "data-srcset =" https://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/16/f7ed551c-0c29-49b9-928b-a19e77bc919a/thumbnail/620x350/bb320348e160fe6a60998f702c7f7791/tuscon -firefighters-pants-down-620.jpg 1x, https://cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2019/06/16/f7ed551c-0c29-49b9-928b-a19e77bc919a/thumbnail/1240x700/b4f0ded9abf6dfad1dcfd3b2049218a7/ tuscon-firefighters-trousers-down-620.jpg 2x "srcset =" data: image / svg + xml,% 3Csvg% 20xmlns% 3D'http% 3A% 2F% 2Fwww.w3.org% 2F2000% 2Fsvg '% 20viewBox% 3D'0% 200% 20620% 20350 '% 2F% 3E "/> </span><figcaption class= Tucson firefighters wash off any chemicals with which they come into contact during a fire.

CBS News

                      

Boston's Fire Chief Joseph Finn, the damage may already be done.

Dokoupil asked, "Do you think that's what you're talking about?"

"Ugh, there's probably a good chance of that," Finn replied.

And he wonders, if we can not protect this generation of firefighters, who will come forward in the next generation to protect all of us?

Chrissy Palumbo's youngest son, she said, wants to be a firefighter, like his dad. "It's me," she said. "He emulates his dad. He misses him greatly."

Dokoupil asked Nicholas Palumbo, "Do you remember when you decided to get a firefighter?"

"Ever since I went to the fire station for the first time, "he replied.

What was that like? "Basically, better than going to Disney, I can say that!"

Docoupil asked Chrissy, "Bottom line, if you had your say as a parent, would you want Nicholas to become a firefighter?"

she said. "It's a good profession. It's a good life."


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Story produced by Sari Aviv.


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