MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- South Carolina law makers are proposing legislation that will support firefighters diagnosed with cancer. The bill will make this an occupational disease so they can receive workers compensation.
Firefighters say this legislation is a huge step. Studies show firefighters are twice as likely to develop cancer, and more aggressive types of cancer. They’re also diagnosed at an earlier age, like Charlie Nash.
“I was a 42-year-old fit firefighter who worked out everyday. In a month and a half I felt like an 85-year-old male. I couldn’t shower myself, I couldn’t dress myself,” said Charlie Nash.
Nash has been a firefighter going on 28 years and even during 9/11. He was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer in August 2015.
“It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. Today it’s just going on three and a half years and I’m still not back to normal yet. A lot of the affects are permanent through the treatment,” said Nash.
Studies show carcinogens enter into firefighters bodies through their lungs and skin, and house fires are more like hazmat events because of the plastics and synthetics in homes today.
“Locally, every department has had people with some sort of cancer. In my current department we had to two people. Right after I was diagnosed, another firefighter was diagnosed with the same cancer,” said Nash.
The South Carolina Firefighter Support Network is pushing for this proposed legislation that recognizes cancer as a line of duty illness.
“It will help provide compensation for a firefighter that is diagnosed with these specific cancers that are addressed in this legislation,” said Brad Kavetski.
Those specific cancers include colon, lung, prostate, and several others, but it doesn’t the cancer Nash was diagnosed with.
“Brain cancer, testicular cancer, and even breast cancer in female firefighters. They’re seeing an increase in that. I think there needs to be a little broader spectrum, but it’s a great place to start,” said Nash.
The bill is currently in the house judiciary committee. The SC Firefighter Support Network will be going to Columbia on March 19th for Legislative Day to talk to lawmakers about this issue.