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Public health advice following the Grenfell Tower fire

Health advice from Public Health England following last week's fire in Grenfell Tower.

Public Health England (PHE) has been providing specialist advice on health following the Grenfell Tower fire one week ago. This includes health advice on air quality, smoke exposure, asbestos, and the clean-up process.

Dr Deborah Turbitt, health protection director for PHE in London, said:

We have been assessing air quality over the past week in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire and this shows no detectable deterioration in air quality. Our advice is that the wider risk to people’s health as a result of the fire, beyond those directly affected, is minimal.

People who were close to the scene last week and exposed to smoke from the fire may have experienced irritation to their air passages, skin and eyes, and respiratory symptoms including coughing and wheezing, breathlessness, phlegm production and chest pain. People who have ongoing concerns about their symptoms should call NHS 111 for medical advice.

We know that bound asbestos, contained in building materials such as plaster or fibre board, was present in Grenfell Tower in ceilings and header panels inside airing cupboards. It is possible that very small amounts of asbestos fibres will have been dispersed within the smoke plume but would have formed only a small fraction of the smoke and particles released in the fire; all smoke is toxic and any asbestos would present a minimal additional risk to health.

Asbestos related diseases are typically associated with a long term workplace exposure to high levels of airborne asbestos fibres.

Safety officers working with teams currently on the site have tested the air within Grenfell Tower for dust and asbestos and have not detected any levels of concern. When work commences to clear the site there will be a system of engineering work that will prevent any asbestos being released from the site and a programme of regular environmental air monitoring conducted to ensure that both contractors and local residents are not put at any risk.

 

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