Tests conducted around Grenfell Tower have uncovered evidence of toxins that could pose serious health risks for residents and survivors of the inferno, it has been revealed.
‘Huge concentrations’ of carcinogens in the soil and dust around the west
Oily deposits have been collected nearly 18 months after the blaze from a flat 160 metres from the site.
Some 72 people perished in the inferno which ripped through Grenfell Tower in June, 2017
Reference soil samples were collected over one mile away from the site, and the results were compared to published baseline levels for Hyde Park, London and a typical UK urban soil.
Professor Anna Stec, who conducted the study, has now warned senior health officials, the police and Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) of the need for further tests.
Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) founf samples from balconies 50-100m from the Tower were contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Six months after the blaze they analysed soil, fire debris and char samples, taken from six locations up to 1.2km from the Tower.
Based on the level of chemicals discovered, they concluded there was ‘an increased risk of a number of health problems to those in the area, from asthma to cancer.’
Soil samples collected within 50m of the Tower also contained phosphorous flame retardants – materials commonly used in insulation foams and upholstered furniture – that are potentially toxic to the nervous system.
Elevated concentrations of benzene, a proven carcinogen, were discovered up to 140m away from the Tower in quantities 25-40 times higher than those typically found in urban soils.
Dust and a yellow oily deposit from a window blind inside a flat 160m from the Tower, collected 17 months after the fire, were also found to contain isocyanates – which can lead to asthma after a single exposure.
Oily deposits have been collected nearly 18 months after the blaze from a flat 160 metres from the site
Prof Stec, who is professor in fire chemistry and toxicity at the University of Central Lancashire said she also found high levels of hydrogen cyanide in the soil she analysed.
She said: ‘There is undoubtedly evidence of contamination in the area surrounding the Tower, which highlights the need for further in-depth, independent analysis to quantify any risks to residents.
‘It is now crucial to put in place long-term health screening to assess any long-term adverse health effects of the fire on local residents, emergency responders and clean-up workers.
‘This will also provide a framework for dealing with any similar disasters in the future.’
Seventy one people died in the blaze on June 14 last year, with a 72nd victim dying months later in hospital.
Last month, Professor Stec was instructed by the public inquiry into the tragedy to act as an expert witness.
NHS England said it would provide up to £50 million to fund long-term screening and treatment for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.