Socialist Worker

Grenfell Tower soil is ‘toxic’ and could put health at risk, says report

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2626

Potential carcinogens, which can cause cancer, have been found around Grenfell Tower

Potential carcinogens, which can cause cancer, have been found around Grenfell Tower (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The soil in the area up to a mile from Grenfell Tower is toxic. That’s according to the preliminary findings of a report due to be released early next year.

Professor Anna Stec of the University of Central Lancashire is the report’s author. She has urged Public Health England (PHE) to organise health tests of people potentially affected.

“I already have datasets that indicate a number of toxins that have not yet been measured by PHE, who have already looked into air ­quality,” said Stec. PHE has said it will only “take the results into consideration” until the full report has been published.

Campaigners in North Kensington and survivors of the fire that killed at least 72 people are angry, as they raised concerns about ­toxicity immediately after the fire.

Moyra Samuels from Justice4Grenfell said, “We asked questions from day one and got assurance after assurance. This is the final straw for many people.”

Natasha from Grenfell United said, “We have written to PHE and the government to demand a meeting about this report.”

At public meetings in the aftermath of the fire, PHE spokespeople tried to reassure people that there was no danger of toxins in the air.

A statement released on 21 June 2017 said it believed “the risk to people’s health from air pollution around the Grenfell Tower site to be ­consistently low”.

Overlooked

Stec’s report raises questions about why PHE only tested air quality in the wake of the fire. What other tests have been overlooked?

On Friday a PHE spokesperson said “historical use of the land” made it “difficult to link it [toxicity] directly with the Grenfell Tower fire”. But that doesn’t explain the reluctance to carry out public health tests.

The public inquiry into the fire has commissioned Stec to conduct a separate piece of research. It was also quick to put distance between itself and the toxicology report.

PHE’s decision to delay health tests could have devastating consequences.

And people are being forced to make decisions about their future without having access to all the ­information they should.

As Moyra pointed out, “People were told to return to their homes on the Lancaster West estate under threat of losing their tenancies.

“Would they have returned if they had known this?”

People should not have effectively been forced to return to their homes in the shadow of Grenfell. Now the ground outside their homes, where children play, may be toxic.

People displaced by the fire should be found homes wherever they want to live. And if it means taking the homes of the rich, then that’s what should happen.


Silent walk draws 500 people

Some 500 people marched through rain on Sunday night for the monthly Grenfell Tower Silent Walk in North Kensington.

Organiser Zeyad Cred urged people to “keep putting on the pressure together”.

Anna Rothery, a Labour councillor from Liverpool, attended the walk and described how people there have been holding monthly vigils to coincide with the Silent Walk.

“We have to push back at the establishment,” she said.

“With every layer you will find someone who doesn’t want to take responsibility. Whatever it takes we will be there in solidarity.”

Days earlier it emerged that Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation had refused a Freedom of Information request to protect the “commercial interests” of Grenfell refurbisher, Rydon.

The request would have revealed that the cladding on the tower had been replaced with a less safe version.


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