ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A bill before the Georgia General Assembly would make cancer an occupational disease for firefighters.
Research shows firefighters get many cancers at a rate of one and a half to two times that of the regular population.
"There are a lot of mental and physical problems in this job and now we are discovering cancer is a big issue also," said Albany Fire Chief Ron Rowe.
Experts say cancer is not only caused by what they breathe in, but what they touch.
"They have to wear their respiratory protection at every call that has a possible hazardous atmosphere, they wear their protective clothing," said Rowe. "But, on the back end we have to get the contamination off them."
The House has passed the bill.
A vote has not yet been scheduled in the Senate.
If it passes, as it is written now, firefighters will be able to apply for worker's compensation for cancer, as long as it is proven to be work-related.
Meanwhile, firefighters use industrial machines to clean cancer-causing fire byproducts off of protective gear.
But contaminated gear can become a juxtaposition of safety and danger.
Gear like hoods are great protection against contaminants for firefighters.
"But, that is the thing that is touching their body also," said Rowe, "so we are absorbing those contaminants still through our skin."
Thoroughly cleaning and drying gear is just as important to staying safe on the job as wearing helmets and goggles.
"It use to be a 'macho' thing: you got your helmet dirty, it's hot, you have melted goggles, whatever it might be," added Rowe. "That's not the case today. You want to be clean."