Professor Anna Stec has resigned from Grenfell Tower’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) investigating potential contamination from chemicals created in the June 2017 fire, stating “nothing is in place” to assess environmental and health risks.
AECOM, the company appointed to carry out official tests of samples taken from the site, delivered initial results last month, and Grenfell representatives were told there was no need for immediate action as levels were said to be typical of those generally found in urban areas. Stec, however, said: “There are still a significant number of people suffering physically and mentally following the Grenfell Tower fire, and yet, there is still nothing in place to properly evaluate all the adverse health effects of the fire, and specifically exposure to fire effluents.”
Last October, Stec’s analysis found toxins in the dust and soil and burned debris that had fallen from the tower that may have long-term health implications for survivors and neighbours. She urged Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health, the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to organise tests to “ensure any potential health risks can be properly assessed”.
Preliminary results identified “huge concentrations” of potential carcinogens, including high levels of hydrogen cyanide, and she suggested health authorities consider taking samples of blood and saliva from firefighters, survivors and local residents to monitor any damage to their DNA. The PHE decided not to take action until Professor Stec’s full report was published, however.
Meanwhile, Grenfell coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox also called for long term health screening for those exposed to potentially hazardous smoke, and noted real concern that this was not in place for firefighters or survivors, while NHS England said it would screen survivors for effects of smoke inhalation.
When Stec’s final report was published in April, it described cancer causing chemicals and other potentially harmful toxins in fire debris and soil samples that could pose serious health risks to the surrounding community and survivors. It uncovered significant environmental contamination from toxins, including oily deposits collected 17 months post fire from a flat 160m away.
Professor Stec said there was now an “urgent need for further analysis” to quantify any risk to resident.
A PHE report has had said that the risk to public health from air pollution remains low.
Last reviewed 15 August 2019