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John

John HELGESEN

Year of Award: 2010 Award State: Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services > Fire And Rescue
The David Balfour Churchill Fellowship to study methods used in the decontamination of fire fighters' protective clothing and equipment - Japan, USA, UK
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The inaugural recipient of this Fellowship was John Helgesen, who spent six weeks in 2010 visiting fire departments in Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom. He wanted to study methods used by them in the decontamination of fire fighters’ protective clothing and equipment. The building industry’s increasing use of synthetics combined with a large increase in electrical equipment in our houses and workplaces means that when a fire breaks out, the fire fighters are exposed to a hazardous array of toxic substances.

John states in his report: ‘A study by the University of Cincinnati found that fire fighters have a 100 per cent higher risk of developing testicular cancer, a 50 per cent higher risk for multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a 28 per cent increased risk for prostate cancer compared with non fire fighters.’

There are systems used by some fire departments that greatly reduce the risks for fire fighters and limit their exposure to the toxic chemicals, and John Helgesen’s ACT Government Churchill Fellowship enabled him to use what he learned overseas to make Australian fire fighters’ work less hazardous.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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