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Government rejects biomonitoring for former Grenfell residents

Grenfell Tower smouldering - credit: Brandon Butterworth

In its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s toxic chemical report, the Government has said that it won’t back a biomonitoring scheme to test the exposure of former residents of Grenfell Tower to potentially toxic chemicals.

The report addressed a range of issues around chemicals in consumer products, including furniture, baby products and toys. It called for biomonitoring programme to establish levels of chemical exposure among the general UK population and a specific monitoring programme for Grenfell residents and firefighters to detect effects of exposure to fire effluents.

It called on Government to act with greater speed on the results of a 2016 review of furniture fire safety regulations, to reduce the use of chemical flame retardants in domestic furniture and to reform labelling system for chemicals in consumer products.

In rejecting biomonitoring in relation to Grenfell, the Government cited the opinion of Public Health England that it could ‘cause unnecessary concern to an already distressed community’.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee, said that the Government had "utterly failed" Grenfell residents in the aftermath of the disaster. She added: "Rejecting our call for a comprehensive biomonitoring scheme is another example of public authorities’ complacent and patronising attitude towards residents after the fire."

She also described the Government’s intention to hold a further consultation on the regulation of flame retardant chemicals used in fabrics and furniture as "kicking the can down the road".

She said: "It’s absurd that the Government continues to ignore repeated advice to reform these outdated regulations. By retaining current levels of potentially harmful chemicals in babies’ mattresses for another two years, it displays supine indifference to furniture standards which are no longer fit for purpose. Action must be taken to prevent harm.’

The UK Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 set fire resistance requirements for cover materials and fillings used to make domestic upholstered furniture. 

Following a consultation earlier this year the Government said: "Following concerns raised by fire service stakeholders about excluding prams and Moses baskets etc., we plan to seek views on their inclusion in the revised proposals when we consult on draft essential safety requirements."

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