UK

Grenfell Tower Cladding 'May Have Released Hydrogen Cyanide'

Patients of the fire are being treated with hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit.

22/06/2017 09:13 BST | Updated 22/06/2017 11:02 BST

The controversial cladding fitted to the outside of Grenfell Tower may have given off highly toxic hydrogen cyanide gas, as it emerged some victims of the blaze are being treated with an antidote.

This latest revelation comes as the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council quit following a barrage of criticism over how the local authority handled the tragedy.

The highly toxic gas released by insulation on the outside of the building may have contributed to some of the deaths.

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The cladding used on the exterior of Grenfell Tower has been blamed by residents for helping to fuel the fire. 

Residents raised fears that the cladding could be behind the speed at which the fire ripped through the 24-storey building.

King’s College Hospital confirmed to HuffPost UK that they did administer the hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit to victims of the blaze “as a precaution”.

The boards, fitted during a refurbishment of the tower, could have produced enough deadly hydrogen cyanide to fill every flat, it has been reported. 

Richard Hull, professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire, told Sky News: “The outside wall of the building had 150mm of PIR foam (fitted), and once the fire had spread to that every flat would have its own source of PIR foam, which would have produced enough hydrogen cyanide to kill all the people in that flat.”

Signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning include headaches, vomiting, chest pains, loss of consciousness, seizures, cardiac arrest and even death.

Manufacturer Celotex stated that the insulation would have released “toxic gases” if it caught fire.

A fire safety expert and former civil servant told HuffPost UK that sofas and mattresses in Grenfell may also have released cyanide during the fire.

Terry Edge, who led an official review into fire safety in 2014, said that, when flame retardant chemicals used on sofas and mattresses are burned, they produce hydrogen cyanide very quickly.

He said: “Those poor people were caught by toxic fumes from both inside and outside the building.”

This latest revelation comes as it emerges the refurbishment work was inspected 16 times by Kensington and Chelsea council, yet failed to prevent the use of the cladding, which Chancellor Philip Hammond said was “banned in the UK”.

On Tuesday Sajid Javid, Communities and Local Government Secretary, called for the resignation of chief executive Nicholas Holgate.

Holgate said in a statement that if he stayed in the post, his presence would be a “distraction”.

The council chief added: “Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the council.”

He said there is a “huge amount” still to do for the victims “in very challenging circumstances” and added: “If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction.”

He continued: “I strongly believe that councillors and officers have always endeavoured to have the interests of our residents at heart and will continue to do so.”

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Tributes are left by Latymer Community Church, near to Grenfell Tower in west London.

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said he accepted the resignation “with great regret” and added that “the council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward”.

There has been a lot of anger over the official response to the deadly blaze from survivors and victims’ families.

Theresa May has apologised for the slow response of the local and national government to react to the tragedy.

It was announced on Tuesday that 68 luxury flats will be made available to survivors of the tragedy.

The Grenfell Tower Response Team said 249 households are in emergency accommodation in hotels and £675,000 has been handed out to families affected by the disaster.

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The coffin of Mohammad Alhajali, a victim of the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze, is taken from the east London Mosque in Whitechapel, for his burial.

Inquests have been opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner’s Court into the deaths of five victims, with a married couple officially named as among the dead.

Omar Belkadi, 32, died from inhaling fire fumes, while his wife, Farah Hamdan, 31, was killed by smoke inhalation.

They lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower with their daughters Malek, seven, Tazmin, six, and Leena, just six months old.

The two eldest daughters were found in hospital by family members but the fate of their youngest girl remains unknown.

Abufars Ibrahim, 39, died of multiple injuries, while Anthony Disson, 65, and a 52-year-old woman, Khadija Khalloufi, both died from inhalation of fire fumes.

Earlier on Wednesday a funeral for 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, the first victim to be identified, was attended by his family and London mayor Sadiq Khan.