A LEGAL loophole is leaving female firefighters without medical compensation if they are diagnosed with cervical, ovarian or uterine cancers, Northern Victorian MP Tania Maxwell told Parliament on Wednesday.
Legislation exists to compensate firefighters if they develop cancer, regardless of whether it can be linked to a specific workplace event.
However, Ms Maxwell said the current compensation schedule did not cover cancers that traditionally only affected women.
International research has shown that female firefighters were at elevated risk of cervical cancer, with the University of Miami School of Medicine reporting that they contributed disproportionately to case numbers detected and lives lost to the disease.
Ms Maxwell said firefighters experienced a lot of contact with carcinogens while acting in the line of duty.
"Firefighters across this state - whether they are career firefighters, forest firefighters or the incredible network of CFA volunteers that our regions rely on so heavily - face enormous risk every time they respond to a fire," she said.
"There's smoke inhalation, exposure to chemicals, extreme heat, ultraviolet radiation, noise, dust. Exposure is also not just at the fire-ground. Contaminants remain on firefighting equipment and need to be thoroughly cleaned.
"There has been a real shift away from the image of gear caked in soot as a status symbol and a greater understanding of how chemical leaching can affect a person's health."
The United Firefighters Union of Australia has called for some female-specific cancers to also be added to the federal government's compensation scheme.
It has argued for the expansion of firefighter presumptive cancer legislation from the current 12 cancers to 19 by adding thyroid, pancreatic, skin, cervical, ovarian, penile and lung cancers.
Ms Maxwell said the number of women firefighters in Australia was increasing and the need would only become more pressing in coming years.
"Female firefighters make up less than five per cent of the overall workforce," she said.
"They are greater in number in Victoria's forest firefighter sector - I'm told 25 per cent - and participation rates will grow."
Ms Maxwell said she had canvassed widely with Volunteer Fire Brigades of Victoria and members of both Fire Services Victoria and Country Fire Authority about the proposed changes.
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