New Ohio law helps firefighters diagnosed with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Thursday a new law goes into effect to help Ohio firefighters who've been diagnosed with cancer get help and benefits.

The disease kills more firefighters every year than any of the other dangers they face on the job. The law was inspired by a Northeast Ohio firefighter, who is battling the disease himself.

"For a long time you never thought that because of the hazards and exposures that we go through you would be diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, right now, it's at an alarming rate," said Mayfield Heights Fire Lt. Mark Palumbo.

Mark's brother, Michael Palumbo, played a large role in bringing awareness to Senate Bill 27. Doctors diagnosed the 49-year-old former Willowick firefighter and Beachwood Fire Captain with a form of brain cancer in August 2015.

"It's hard hearing my brother's name on the bill, but, from a family point, it's humbling," said Mark Palumbo. "He knows what it means for Ohio firefighters, for fellow brothers and sisters across the state."

A CDC study shows about 22 percent of the general population develops cancer. When it comes to firefighters, that number is more than three times that, or 68 percent.

"We've had numerous firemen over the last 10 to 15 years pass away." said Cleveland firefighter Michael Flynn.

Though this law doesn't change the dangers of the job, firefighters said it'll change lives.

"We deal with a lot of carcinogens. Going into these fires and putting them out, we're dealing with a lot of smoke that's actually sticking to us and later on we're developing cancer from it. So, them protecting us from this cancer is great for us firefighters," said Cleveland firefighter Antoine Crews.

It's protection, the Palumbo family said, Michael is proud to have fought for.

"It's an honor to have Michael's name attached to it," said Mark Palumbo. "He's a firefighter's firefighter."

Michael Palumbo's wife said he has been under hospice care for several weeks now. His brother said the next step in their mission is to talk about prevention and awareness and what can be done to lessen exposure for firefighters.

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