Protesters condemn health risk ‘lies’ after chemicals found near Grenfell Tower

Activists in hazmat suits and masks stopped traffic in west London in a protest accusing authorities of lying after cancer-causing chemicals were found in soil close to Grenfell Tower.

Banners reading “Tick toxic time” and “Intoxicated by lies” were held aloft as campaigners stood in the road outside Shepherd’s Bush station and blocked traffic.

One member of the public applauded as the group of around 20 walked past, chanting “PHE (Public Health England) – liars!” and “No more lies – toxins kill”.

Grenfell Tower protest
Activists accused authorities of lying after cancer-causing chemicals were found in soil close to Grenfell Tower (Rebecca Brown/PA)

Cars sounded their horns in support of the demonstrators; others beeped to get them to clear the road.

A month after the fire in June 2017, in which 72 people died, researchers discovered cancer-causing chemicals in samples taken from balconies within 110 yards (100m) of the tower.

A team at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) analysed soil and debris samples taken from six locations up to three-quarters of a mile (1.2km) from the west London tower.

The study, published in scientific journal Chemosphere, uncovered “significant environmental contamination” in the surrounding area, including in oily deposits collected 17 months after the tragedy.

Grenfell Tower protest
Activists stop traffic in west London (Rebecca Brown/PA)

Based on the level of chemicals discovered, researchers concluded there was an increased risk of a number of health problems including cancer and asthma to those in the area.

Around 20 people from the local community, campaigners and those who knew people who died in the fire gathered on Friday morning.

Moyra Samuels, from campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell, said: “We are trying to highlight that there has been a lot of obfuscation and denial of the community’s concerns regarding these toxins since the interim report was leaked.

“The community asked very simple questions about the risks, and were told categorically … that there is nothing to worry about, all we needed to do is wash our hands and wash the vegetables if we grow them.

“This report indicates that the risks are a lot higher.”

Grenfell Tower protest
Activists wore hazmat suits and masks (Rebecca Brown/PA)

Ms Samuels added: “This is quite scandalous that the community has been fobbed off by what we consider false reassurances.”

She said people were concerned that the effects of the fire on people’s health may not fully emerge for years.

“We fear that there will be more in the future, there will be more than 72 deaths from this fire.”

A two-minute silence was observed in memory of the 72 victims, before the demonstrators set off.

Grenfell Tower protest
Crowds gather in west London to support the protest (Rebecca Brown/PA)

Nour-eddine Aboudihaj, a local resident and co-ordinator for the Grenfell Trust, which works with bereaved families, knew somebody who died in the fire.

He said: “We are here today because the community is feeling let down. It hasn’t been told the truth about what’s been happening, and that’s why everybody is anxious and angry and upset.”

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