An investigation by a UCLan academic has uncovered cancer-causing chemicals and other potentially dangerous toxins in soil from the Grenfell Tower fire debris.
Research published today by the university's Professor Anna Stec has uncovered “significant environmental contamination” from a range of toxins in the soil which she says could have serious harmful effects on people living nearby and for Grenfell residents.
The Professor in Fire Chemistry and Toxicology at UCLan, initially led research with a team from the Preston university after she was called as an expert witness to the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry
She revealed back in January that the polyethylene-filled aluminium composite material (ACM) panels used on the tower were 55 times more flammable than the least flammable panels tested.
Now, new analysis of soil, debris and char samples has uncovered known cancer-causing chemicals and respiratory sensitisers, which experts say highlight the need for a detailed investigation and long-term health screening to fully establish potential health risks to those in the local area.
A month after the fire, researchers at the university discovered that char samples from balconies 50 to 100 metres from the Tower were contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
This led to further analysis, six months after the fire, of soil, fire debris and char samples, taken from six locations up to 1.2 km from the Tower. Based on the level of chemicals discovered, researchers concluded that there is an increased risk of a number of health problems to people in the local area, from asthma to cancer.
Professor Stec, p lead author of the study, 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 future readiness for dealing with any further such disasters.”
Prof Stec has previously called for screening of survivors and firefighters to monitor and treat potential health risks.