The wife of a Des Moines firefighter who died of cancer is urging legislators to change Iowa law.
Emily Broderick’s 51-year-old husband Mike Broderick died of liver cancer in mid-January. “Unfortunately we learned through his diagnosis that only 14 cancers are covered right now for disability for the firefighters. You should say the word ‘cancer’ and it should be covered,” Broderick told Radio Iowa. “They’re selfless servants. They run into the most dangerous of situations and how can we not give back to them?”
A memorial service for Mike Broderick was held late Thursday morning in West Des Moines. Afterwards, his wife and many of his fellow firefighters made their way to the Iowa Capitol to attend the House State Government Committee meeting. The panel unanimously passed a bill to make firefighters as well as police officers in Iowa’s municipal retirement system eligible for accidental disability and death benefits if they’re diagnosed with any form of cancer.
“I do know the statistics,” Emily Broderick said. “You’re 14 times more likely to get cancer as a firefighter. They’re exposed to all these toxins. Their PPE has carcinogens in it.”
Joe Van Haalen, president of the Des Moines firefighters’ union, said their gear contains PFAS — the so-called “forever chemicals” — to make it water repellent, plus they are being exposed to many other cancer-causing chemicals as they fight fires. “Construction materials, the things that are inside of our houses,” Van Haalen said. “The things we encounter in house fires are just getting more and more dangerous.”
After the bill passed the House committee, firefighters lingered in Capitol hallways for handshakes and more conversions about Mike Broderick. Broderick met his wife Emily in high school in Cherokee, Iowa. He served 20 years in the U.S. Army and joined the Des Moines Fire Department in 2007.