INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WSBT) — A proposed bill was pushed unanimously through the Indiana House of Representatives.
If signed into law, firefighters could get tested for cancer-causing chemicals.
This bill was mentioned in the obituary of a South Bend firefighter who recently lost his life.
Mike Brown died less than two weeks ago, after more than 20 years of service. He had just retired in January.
His former coworkers are raising awareness about PFAS to improve life for future generations of firefighters.
If House Bill 1219 becomes a law, it would create a pilot program to analyze blood samples of a thousand former and current firefighters. Looking at PFAS levels in their blood, and how it relates to health problems.
The bill's author, State Representative Maureen Bauer, says the untimely deaths of firefighters locally highlight the importance of this data.
"We realize one missing part to this equation of removing the exposure and reducing the toxic environments that they're working in is also to have information about their health," said State Rep. Maureen Bauer, (D) South Bend.
The forever chemical, PFAS, can cause cancer, liver damage and other issues, and it has been found in certain types of firefighting foams and gear.
South Bend fire officials say this study could help better understand the losses of Mike Brown and others taken by cancer.
"It kind of puts it into perspective over and over again that it's a lot more likely that a lot of us are going to run into that fate ourselves," said Eric Griffin, South Bend Firefighters Local 362 Vice President.
"Shouldn't we be able to with some sense of decency be able to say, now can I just have some time to be with my family? To see my grandkids, to walk my daughter down the aisle. Which our last firefighter Mike Brown didn't get a chance to do," said Chief Carl Buchanon, South Bend Fire Department.
The health risks leave Chief Buchanon concerned for future of the service, but he's determined to see conditions improve.
"So me? I understand what my fate is. But it would be benign and amiss for me to not care about all the rest of the people that's following me doing this same thing,” said Buchanon.
The bill still has to go to the state senate.
But if it's passed into law, the findings would have to be submitted as a report before July 2027.