HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Local firefighters say they have proof their job can cause cancer. But right now, there isn't much help when it comes to the mounting medical bills for those who do get sick.
Firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis and sometimes they have to deal with deadly long-term health effects as a result of fighting fires.
So now local firefighter unions are calling for a three-step approach to help them prevent cancer and provide financial aid to those who do get sick.
Step one is to fight for presumptive legislation, a disability law linking a certain job, like firefighting, with a disease or condition shown to be a hazard of that job.
It qualifies that person for medical help.
Thirty-five states already have this legislation in place.
In South Carolina, many insurance companies won't provide much coverage or assistance with bills linked to cancer because there's no evidence connecting being a firefighter with cancer.
Local union members paid for research they say proves that when they get cancer, it's from fighting fires.
The second step is education. Firefighters absorb toxic chemicals every time they go into a fire zone. Firefighters say better education on how to clean gear and handle it to reduce affects of absorbing these chemicals into the body is necessary in working toward cancer prevention.
"We're all exposed to these toxic wastes in homes," says firefighter Bill Pesature. "Every home is a toxic dump for us. And our bodies absorb the stuff. The reason we're concerned about our rates of cancer... it's because of how much we absorb in our bodies."
The third step is reporting exposures.
Local firefighters say there needs to be a push to report what chemicals they are exposed to in each fire. So if they do get cancer, it helps to prove it was from the exposure.