'Huge' amount of potentially carcinogenic toxins found near Grenfell Tower site – expert
More than one year after the Grenfell Tower tragedy claimed the lives of 72 people, a toxicology expert says a “huge” amount of potentially carcinogenic toxins have been found around the site.
Early results by Anna Stec, a professor at the University of Central Lancashire who is an expert in fire chemistry and toxicity, show that “huge concentrations” of potentially toxic carcinogens have been found in dust and soil around the area, and in burned debris that fell from the tower when it erupted in flames on June 14, 2017. Heavy amounts of hydrogen cyanide were also present in the soil analyzed by Stec and her team, according to the research seen by the Guardian.
“I have taken a high number of samples from a number of locations in the area – some were taken close to Grenfell Tower, others were taken from almost a mile away,” said Stec, who has studied soil, dust, and residue taken from eight nearby sites.
Those early findings prompted Stec to urge Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health, the police, and Kensington and Chelsea council to organize tests to ensure that any potential public health risks are properly evaluated.
She also suggested that health authorities should consider taking blood and saliva samples from survivors, as well as from firefighters and nearby residents, to determine any damage to their DNA.
Despite Stec's recommendations, PHE has decided not to take any action until her full report is published, which is likely to be early next year. It said that it has monitored air quality around the tower site and found nothing to cause concern.
Stec, who was recently appointed as an expert witness to the Grenfell Tower inquiry, began her independent study last year after hearing from concerned survivors who fear hidden health consequences from the deadly fire.
The professor was also one of several signatories of an open letter to the British PM which urged the government to ensure that similar tragedies never happen again. "We are united by our resolve that a tragedy like Grenfell Tower must never happen again. Ten months on, we are deeply concerned that so little has been done to prevent another fire," the April letter states.
The professor is not the only one to express concern about those who were close to the tragedy. Last month, Grenfell Tower coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox demanded a long-term health screening for those exposed to smoke from the fire. Earlier this week, NHS England announced it would be screening survivors for the effects of smoke inhalation.
The inquiry into the fire was told in June that safety measures at the building were inadequate and that authorities' advice for residents to "stay put" had failed, as an evacuation of the building should have taken place within the first 46 minutes of the fire starting.
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