WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Firefighters wear hoods that are meant to protect them in fires, but these tools could be hurting crews long after the flames are out.
“Unfortunately, our culture was the more soot you had on you, it was almost a badge of honor,” said retired Waterbury firefighter Dan Huften.
He says his white firefighter hood would often turn black. Huften retired from the Waterbury Fire Department from a back injury and was then diagnosed with Stage 3 Colo-rectal cancer.
“I underwent chemo and radiation, followed by surgery, which resulted in a permanent colostomy followed by more chemotherapy,” said Huften.
Friday, more than 200 hoods were donated anonymously to the Waterbury Fire Department. It’s for crews to rotate them and not need to wear a dirty one.
“All those cancer-causing materials are being absorbed through the skin,” said Occupational Physician for Boston Fire Dr. Michael Hamrock. He says a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health report released about a year ago shows these dirty hoods can lead to cancer down the road.
“There are 225 firefighters in Waterbury, and last year you had five cancers” said Hamrock. “That’s three times what you should expect for the age group.”
Now state politicians are introducing a bill which would expand long-term healthcare for firefighters.
“This is about coverage,” said Rep. Michelle Cook, who represents the 65th District. “This is about insuring that, God forbid a firefighter comes down with a cancer, they have protections,”
She says this legislation could include pre-screenings and protection for their families.
“We owe it not only to the guys currently on the job, but for the toddler who might be a firefighter down the road,” said Huften.
Other states, like Massachusetts and New York, have passed similar laws. Right now Connecticut’s bill is in its infancy. It’s being drafted and is expected to pass the Labor Committeee with bipartisan support.