NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Proposed legislation that would require Suffolk County lifeguards to protect themselves from the sun is expected to go to a vote next month.
The bill, which is sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), is intended “to protect lifeguards from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light while on duty.”
“It’s our job to protect them from the hazards of the job they do for us,” Hahn told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Every summer, Suffolk County hires about 112 lifeguards who are exposed to the sun for long periods of time and are at an increased risk of skin cancers, according to the bill.
Under the law, lifeguards would be required to wear wide brim hats, UV protective glasses, protective shirts, sun block and be screened for abnormal skin conditions.
As Gusoff reported, the county would fit the bill for the gear.
The Mollie Biggane Melanoma Foundation released the following statement in support of the measure:
This past July, Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPC, Acting Surgeon General of the United Stated issued a “Call to Action” about Skin Cancer. Skin cancer, an increasing epidemic is a major public health threat in the United States. By issuing this report, the Surgeon General calls on all Americans, families, business and health professionals and government leaders to recognize and act on recommendations that will allow America to be more healthy in preventing skin cancer. We think providing lifeguards with the essential equipment is a classic example of responding appropriately to his “Call to Action”.
Life guards who spend summers saving lives on our Long Island beaches NOW require help for their own rescue. Let’s not hesitate to provide them with the basics: shelter, hats, SPF shirts, sunscreen and regular skin checks. We will be enabling them to do their job(life saving) in a healthier environment, while modelling good sun safe behaviors to the thousands that frequent our beaches. 5 million Americans will develop skin cancer at a national cost of $8.1 billion. Think of those savings!
Reaction among Long Islanders was mixed.
“They wanna wear something they should do it, but no one should tell anybody what they should do, this is America” one man said. “I believe it does go too far, I believe that these people are smart enough to know about skin cancer in this day and age.”
“I don’t think it’s too much, it’s gotta be for their own protection,” another man said.
Legislator Tom Cilmi asks when does it end; Suffolk County recently passed a healthy food law and raised the age to buy tobacco.
“When does government’s role end and personal responsibility begin?” he said.
Lifeguards CBS 2 spoke with say they’ll take the free gear but don’t need a law to be sun smart.
“We definitely appreciate what the county is trying to do but for years we’ve been on top of making sure everyone is taking care of themselves,” lifeguard Erik Gorman said.
The bill will be voted on next month.
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