Saturday, May 9, 2009

Parkinson's Disease As a Line of Duty Disability

Indiana the 1st State to Recognize the Job-related Risk Factor of Law enforcement Officers, Firemen and EMS Responders to PD

With strong bi-partisan support the Indiana House and Senate passed a law granting enhanced benefits to policemen, firemen and EMS workers. The law will require the presumption that Parkinson's disease is a line of duty disability under the emergency responders pension and disability plan. SB 376, signed by Gov Mitch Daniels this past week will go into effect July 1, 2009.

The issue was brought to public attention primarily by firefighters who contended that exposure to burning chemicals can cause early onset Parkinson's or YOPD which affects people between 21 and 50 years of age. Emergency responders who are disabled in the line of duty are entitled to greater benefits than those with other disabilities. Indiana was the first state to pass the issue, which is being lobbied by emergency responders in several states and as well as by Vietnam veterans.

Studies have recently shown that toxic smoke inhaled by responders at a burning building can increase the risk of Parkinson's. Toxic exposure from burning chemicals is an unusual circumstance that can trigger an early onset of Parkinson's disease.

Gary Coons a retired firefighter with a line of duty disability was the leader in organizing and supporting the legislation. He sees a need for providing more information to firemen in other states and countries and has developed a website Firefighters with Parkinsons which receives hits from all over the world, from firefighters seeking information that will help them protect themselves.

In the general population the rate of diagnosed PD is 1 to 1.5 per 500 people. Of those the rate for YOPD is 1:20. Firefighters have a rate of 15:500 for developing Parkinson's disease.

It is both interesting and sad to note that Mr Coons exhibited many symptoms of Parkinson's while he was being treated for the shoulder and back injuries related to line of duty injuries.

In 2005 he had spent 3 days investigating a fire at a paint factory and because no SCBA was required, he was exposed to several toxins. He became symptomatic that same year which is unusual for PD except in the case of toxin exposure. Although he consulted his doctors about the symptoms, no one identified the symptoms as anything but injury related. Mr Coons received the diagnosis two years later after he and his wife decided to consult a neurologist. He was 33 years old.

September 2009 Update: Follow this link to the Toxic Causes of Parkinson's disease:


  1. HI,
    My father is a retired NYC firefighter, 83, and recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Is there any compensation for him in NY, for PD as a line-of-duty disability? Please advise?
    Thank you very much

    1. If your father was a member, I suggest that you contact the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters AFL-CIO, CLC) regarding compensation issues; however, your father was probably retired at the time of his diagnosis, has probably not been hospitalized because of it at this time, is still living and therefore might not be covered in any way yet.
      1750 New York Avenue, NW Suite 300
      Washington, DC 20006-5395 Phone: 202.737.8484
      Fax: 202.737.8418

  2. The above comment also included a name, email address and phone number. It has always been our policy to avoid publishing private contact information so that information was deleted from the posting.

    The answer to the question is important for many people, however.

    Should reader have specific advice for anonymous, it can be posted in this comment section to help others or sent to me through the CONTACT US email link. I will be glad to forward that information to her.


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