People in North Kensington have been raising health concerns since the Grenfell Tower fire. Following Friday’s news that ‘huge concentrations’ of toxins have been found in the soil around the tower, fellow local bloggers, THis Is North Kensington – THINK, have some more concerning news for local residents, which they have shared with Urban Dandy…
On Friday, The Guardian reported that Public Health England have not acted upon a report of early findings by toxicology expert Dr Anna Stec showing huge concentrations of potential carcinogens in the air and the soil around Grenfell Tower. Prof Stec has urged PHE, the Department of Heath the Police and RBKC to organise tests on local residents so health risks in our local North Kensington community can be assessed properly. Read about it here
Many of us here have long held these concerns, and they appear to be validated in Prof Stec’s early findings. Sadly, we can’t exactly say we are surprised – local residents have been voicing very real anxieties about health here for well over a year – concerns that have mainly fallen on the deaf ears of our government, Public Health England and our council.
We could remind them of the cyanide gases released by the burning insulation from the Tower in the fire, of numerous local residents calling for soil and water and cladding to be tested on countless occasions since the fire, of people from Grenfell Tower suffering cyanide poisoning after the fire, of the “Grenfell cough” which is no figment of peoples’ imagination in North Kensington (several locals had respiratory problems after the fire), of the burnt cladding and insulation that landed in people’s homes and gardens up to a mile away, or of this post of ours from August last year:
Public Health England were delayed in their responses at the very least, relied on air quality tests alone (again ignoring residents’ concerns) and flat-out refused to investigate the rest of the environment surrounding Grenfell Tower. Many concerned local residents at public meetings were dismissed by PHE – utterly shameful.
We sat at one meeting where one of them was saying that the air and soil here were perfectly safe and made out that we had nothing to worry about. It is bad enough that they refuse to take our concerns seriously, but they really should at least now listen to the concerns of a world-leading expert….
It also appears to many of us in our community that there have been concerted efforts on the parts of both this government and the leadership of our council from day one to minimise what has been a not just a local but a national disaster – shame on them.
We warn RBKC, Public Health England and the government that failing to act upon this is in itself a neglect of duty of care at the very least.
Local Labour Notting Dale Ward councillor Judith Blakeman has also constantly raised concerns over this and she informed us that she has also again raised these matters with RBKC.
Some might remember Sir Derek Myers, former joint Chief Executive of both RBKC and Hammersmith and Fulham. He stepped down, coincidentally – or not – enough at the same time Sir Merrick Cockell quit as leader of our council. Back in 2013, The Guardian published an interview with Myers in which he downplayed this council’s then-policy of negotiating the purchase of properties in Peterborough and then relocating local families there (Peterborough’s then Conservative MP Stewart Jackson condemned this at the time and said: “This is about social cleansing in Kensington and Chelsea. It’s about getting rid of people they don’t want in their borough, who are on benefits, who they have a responsibility for – to house – who are statutorily homeless.”)
Well, talking of homeless people, after his departure from the Rotten Borough, Myers then ended up chair of the board of trustees at Shelter until resigning last year alongside then trustee of Shelter, Tony Rice, who was also chairman and sole shareholder of Omnis Exteriors – who allegedly sold the Grenfell cladding – disgraceful.
But if last year’s news was shocking enough, some readers might be wondering why we are bringing all these old revelations up. We remind them that Sir Derek Myers’ “home” now is on the board of PHE.
We will also remind people of the Notting Barns South Masterplan, obtained by the Grenfell Action Group under the Freedom of Information Act and that Derek Myers was chief executive of this borough at the exact same time these plans, which proposed the demolition of Grenfell Tower, were drawn up.
No, we are not going into “conspiracy theory territory”, but Myers’ involvement with PHE certainly raises more than a few red flags here. His Guardian interview finishes with the line “like all natural leaders, where others see a problem, Myers sees an opportunity” – make of that what you will…
THINK believe it to be a real conflict of interest for Sir Derek Myers to be in such a position given his former role at RBKC and we say that it is time that he takes the “opportunity” to resign from Public Health England now.
We also say it is time for the government and the council to take the very real concerns about our health raised by residents, local councillors, health professionals and toxicology experts seriously and to act upon this immediately.
As things stand it appears to us that some in authority have not learnt anything after Grenfell; about listening to this community and its concerns and acting upon them responsibly. And we are less than reassured with the very important matters of our health, our environment and our futures being their call.
By THINK for Urban Dandy