COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio firefighters now have a new layer of health care protection thanks to a local firefighter.
"I'm glad there is a law protecting firefighters," said Willowick Fire Captain Michael Palumbo. "I'm extremely honored the law bears my name."
Governor Kasich signed the Michael Louis Palumbo, Jr. Act into law Wednesday. The law allows firefighters who qualify that are "disabled" by cancer the opportunity to file a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, essentially classifying cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters.
This law is a long time coming for Palumbo who has been battling an incurable form of brain cancer since 2015. Fighting fires runs in the Palumbo family blood. Both Michael and his brother Mark are firefighters in Willowick. Michael also worked in Beachwood, with a career spanning a total of nearly three decades. The new law will make sure firefighter families don't face financial barriers because of cancer.
"It's going to protect them and their families through several different avenues, to get the benefits right away that they deserve," said Palumbo.
The CDC has been analyzing the connection between cancer and firefighters since 2010. Their study determined firefighters are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer and cancer-related deaths than the rest of the general U.S. population; citing a possible explanation as an exposure to asbestos.
The news of a local firefighter making such a big difference has officials in both cities he has served, Willowick and Beachwood, beaming with pride.
"This was a long road coming and it's finally here," said childhood friend and Willowick mayor Richard Regovich. "It's a good day for Willowick and all the firefighters in Ohio."
Beachwood mayor Merle Gorden speaking out as well, sending Fox 8 the following statement:
"Our first responders are our front line of protection. I support Senate Bill 27 because it supports the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our community safe, healthy and strong."
Senate Bill 27 was introduced in the Ohio Senate in 2015 and passed the House in December