New Legislation Aims to Tackle Firefighter Cancer

( Left to Right: Nir Hagigi, CCSN Public Policy Analyst; Senator Hassan Yussuff; Lindsay Timm, CCSN Community Engagement Manager; Gabriel McDonald, CCSN Social Policy Researcher )

We have discussed before about the dangers of Firefighting as a profession, and now the federal government is helping mitigate those risks.

On June 22nd, Bill C-224 received royal assent and was put into law. The bill is called An Act to establish a national framework for the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting and was introduced by Lognueuil – Charles-LeMoyne MP Sherry Romanado. The legislation includes an action plan put forward by the Government of Canada in 2021 to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals. The banning of chemical flame retardants, the development of safe flame retardants and alternatives, investment in research and monitoring, identifying best practices, sharing information and raising awareness are all pillars of the plan.

The profession of firefighting has been listed as a group-1 carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The job often puts workers around harmful chemicals that they don’t always have protection against. Combined with being exposed to diesel exhaust and the prevalence of shift work, firefighting and cancer share a direct, provable link.

Health Canada will continue to engage with stakeholders on how to best develop a national framework to protect firefighters from cancer. CCSN is urging Health Canada to do the following to ensure the framework does what it set out to do:

  1. Implement and enforce stricter exposure limits for carcinogens encountered by firefighters.
  2. Develop workplace-specific toxic use reduction policies, and encourage the use of safer technologies.
  3. Establish a registry of workplace exposures to track them over time.
  4. Enhance workplace safety training with a focus on prevention and identification of carcinogens, along with training on spotting the early symptoms of cancer and when to seek medical advice.
  5. Add more research funding into investigating the link between firefighting and cancer so areas of improvement can be found.
  6. Streamline and standardize the process for recognizing occupational cancer and make compensation and treatment equitable across the board.
  7. Review the effectiveness of these policies on a regular basis.
  8. Collaborate with international partners to learn best practices from other countries.

If you’d like to learn more about the risks associated with firefighting, click here.

To read our policy brief on Bill C-224, click here.