The government has rejected calls for a monitoring programme to check residents’ exposure to toxic chemicals in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Ministers said Public Health England felt such a scheme “could cause unnecessary concern to an already distressed community” and would not provide reassurance as there was no pre-fire analysis for comparison.
It comes after parliament’s environmental audit committee backed calls from experts and residents for a monitoring programme amid serious concerns over the environmental contamination caused by the fire in June 2017, which killed 72 people.
On Wednesday, Mary Creagh – the committee’s chair – accused the government of having “utterly failed” the Grenfell residents in the wake of the tragedy.
“Rejecting our call for a comprehensive biomonitoring scheme – which would reassure Grenfell’s traumatised community – is another example of public authorities’ complacent and patronising attitude towards residents after the fire,” she said.
In its report in July, the committee also recommended that local people with concerns about dust or residues in their homes should be offered the opportunity to have them tested.
The report described how residents have reported the emergence of the “Grenfell cough” and health problems including vomiting, coughing up blood, skin complaints and breathing difficulties.
A scientific study also found cancer-causing chemicals in samples taken from balconies within 100m of the tower a month after the blaze and “significant environmental contamination” in the surrounding area, including in oily deposits collected 17 months after the tragedy.
Researchers concluded there was an increased risk of a number of health problems including cancer and asthma to those in the area.
But in its response to the environmental audit committee’s report, the government did not accept the calls for a programme to monitor people’s exposure to toxins, saying it is not usually possible to determine if contaminants can be associated with such a fire.
Meanwhile, it highlighted “additional, ongoing environmental checks” being carried out in and around the Grenfell Tower site, £50 million to fund long-term treatment for those affected by the fire and enhanced health checks offered by the NHS.