MONROE TWP. – State Sen. Linda R. Greenstein met today with emergency responders at the Monroe Township Department, District 3 Station to discuss ways to ensure safety and care for those who fearlessly protect New Jerseyans when a catastrophic event or terrorist attack occurs. Greenstein spoke with firefighters regarding her legislation that would ensure first responders receive medical care and compensation for conditions resulting from their actions in the line of duty, particularly medical conditions that may not manifest until long after the event.
“While most everyone tries to stay out of harm’s way, first responders run into danger when a terrorist attack or catastrophic event occurs,” said Greenstein, D-Plainsboro. “In doing so, they take on a high level of risk, not only of immediate injury or death, but long-term health problems including respiratory issues, cancer and post traumatic stress disorder. We cannot ignore that these health problems have a direct correlation to high risk emergency situations and it is our duty to provide these men and women with the compensation and health care they have earned.”
Greenstein’s bill, S-1778, would create a rebuttable presumption for workers’ compensation coverage – shifting the burden of proof from the employee to the employer – for any death or disability, including post traumatic stress disorder, that arises from the physical or psychological impact of stress or injury experienced by the public safety worker during response to a terrorist attack, epidemic or other catastrophic emergency. The bill would apply to both paid and volunteer firefighters, first aid or rescue squad members, police, corrections officers, nurses, medical technicians and other medical personnel.
Due to the extreme likelihood of repeated smoke and carcinogenic exposure, the bill would also provide that any firefighter with five or more years of service would receive a rebuttal presumption for workers’ compensation if they suffer an injury, illness or death caused by cancer.
Greenstein was joined by George Borek, 1st Vice President, International Association of Fire Fighters State Association and the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey and Peter Gasiorowski, Chief and Administrator for Monroe Township Fire District Three.
“As firefighters and emergency medical workers, we put our own personal health at risk daily protecting and serving the citizens of New Jersey. There is a HIGHER mortality rate and significantly shorter life expectancy associated with firefighting. Firefighters are dying too quickly from cancer and other occupational diseases!” said Dominick Marino, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters State Association and the Professional Firefighters Association of New jersey, AFL-CIO. “The passage of “The Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act” Senate Bill 1778 is a tribute to all the families of first responders either paid or volunteers who have contracted cancer or other occupational diseases.”
The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York caused thousands of tons of toxic debris to enter the air in the aftermath of the attacks, leaving emergency responders and individuals in the area susceptible to increased health risks. Research into these toxins’ effects on rescue workers has been well documented. A Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital doctor cited a 70 percent illness rate among first responders; a 2010 report of 14,000 rescue workers found that on average workers lost 10 percent of their lung function. Further, a 2012 study by the Journal of American Medical Association reported that the incidences of prostate cancer, thyroid cancers and multiple myeloma was elevated among 9-11 rescue workers; and a recent Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives study found a 15 percent overall increased risk of cancer in World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers.
“In a post-September 11 age, first responders are more often exposed to toxic substances, including biological and chemical warfare, from which the effects may not appear for years or even decades. Our current system of immediate cause and effect no longer applies,” said Senator Greenstein. “This legislation recognizes that and ensures that no matter when symptoms occur, our firefighters, police, health care workers and emergency personnel are protected.”
The legislation is named after the late Thomas P. Canzanella, a Hackensack firefighter and former President of the International Association of Fire Fighters State Association of New Jersey, who spent several weeks at Ground Zero after 9-11 and championed coverage of firefighter occupational diseases, including cancer.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!