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Maryland law presumes many cancers are job-related for firefighters

A dispute between the City of Baltimore and a firefighter-paramedic with breast cancer spotlights a high-stakes debate over a law that presumes certain cancers are related to fighting fires. Firefighters say the provisions — which can lead to awards exceeding $500,000, including medical bills — rightly reflect the fact that they can encounter dangerous fumes and chemicals on the job.

But governments like Baltimore's, which spent $49 million last year on workers' compensation, call the law unreasonably generous and too difficult to challenge in hearings or in court. Officials also point to recent research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that casts doubt on whether there is a link between firefighting and most of the cancers listed in Maryland's law.

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