Bill filed to help Massachusetts firefighters battling Parkinson’s disease


BOSTON (WWLP) – Firefighters put their lives on the line every day, and now we’re finding out they risk their health as well.

Every time firefighters enter a burning building, they are exposed to toxic chemicals that could lead to illnesses that linger long after the fire is extinguished. Westfield State Representative John Velis told 22News firefighters are being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at an alarming rate. He has filed a bill to extend accidental disability benefits to firefighters with Parkinson’s.

“It’s an accidental disability, so very similar to if a firefighter has a lung disease, cancer, something like that. It would create a presumption that they contracted this Parkinson’s disease from exposure to fire from their job as a firefighter,” said Rep. Velis.

The bill was inspired by Westfield firefighter Greg Heath, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after 17-years on the job. 22News discovered that he is not alone.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) cites studies that found firefighters are eight times more susceptible to Parkinson’s than the general public.

PFFM President Rich McKinnon, Jr. sent 22News this statement:

Every time we respond to a fire, firefighters are exposed to thousands of toxic substances. These chemicals attack the nervous system and are linked to such ailments as Parkinson’s Disease. HD1670 An Act relative to Parkinson’s Disease and Disability in Firefighters filed this legislative session is imperative to protecting our members and their families who suffer from this degenerative disease in the performance of their duties as a firefighter.

Nearly sixty state lawmakers have signed onto the Parkinson’s bill.

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