Firefighters’ cancer not work-related, officials rule

Firefighters hoping to set precedent by having their cancers declared as work-related injuries have had their requests for compensation turned down

Occupational health officials have turned down the requests of two firefighters, one of whom died last month, to have the cancer they developed identified as a work-related illness.

The two men, the other of which is terminally ill, argued that their cancers were brought on by years of inhaling smoke. They were the first of 93 firefighters who have applied to the Arbejdsskadesstyrelsen (AKS) for compensation after developing cancers they said were work-related.

According to AKS, the rejections were based on the types of cancers the men had developed. Rikke Nielsen, an AKS spokesperson, said certain forms of cancer developed by firefighters, including testicular and prostate, are typically recognised as work-related. Others, such as skin and lung cancer, are approved if a firefighter has been exposed to certain types of chemicals.

One of the two men, Flemming Jensen, passed away in January at the age of 60. His son, Mark Jensen, has no doubt that the colon cancer his father developed was caused by the soot and smoke that he inhaled during his 37 years fighting fires.

“No-one in my dad’s family ever had colon cancer, and my father was always healthy and in good shape,” Jensen told DR News.

Although he knew his cancer was terminal, Flemming Jensen brought the case before AKS in the hopes of setting a precedent.

“He hoped that the case would help his fellow firefighters get what they deserve,” Jensen said.

During the final months of his father’s life, Jensen researched information regarding the frequency of cancer in the fire brigade, and he expressed disappointment that what he called readily available facts have not improved working conditions for other firefighters.

“Some of this information has been around for many, many years and it could have saved my father’s life,” he said.

Jensen felt it was only fair that firefighters were compensated if they fell victim to job-related illnesses.

“They run into a burning house, when everyone else is running out,” he said. “They are saving lives, even at the risk of their own.”