Belsize Park campaigner who lost relatives at Grenfell says toxic tower warnings were ‘ignored’
Clarrie Mendy: 'Now we have these research findings, I’m asking: where is the humanity?'
09 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot
A CELEBRATED campaigner who lost two relatives in the Grenfell Tower disaster, and has been diagnosed with an incurable and debilitating condition, says her warnings about the toxic fallout from the fire have been ignored.
Clarrie Mendy, who lives in Belsize Park, was speaking on Friday after government-commissioned scientists found dangerous levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the soil and air within a 1,200-metre radius around the tower.
On Friday, Ms Mendy was at a special event in Portobello Road, West London to see a cyclist Gordon Barclay complete a sponsored ride from Portobello, near Edinburgh which he did to raise funds for her medical help.
The major scientific study around the tower, published last week by an independent group of experts, said there was “significant environmental contamination” and called for urgent further analysis.
The government says it is taking the findings “extremely seriously”and said residents living near the tower should go for advanced health checks. Ms Mendy, who set up the Relative Justice for Grenfell group and has given evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry, has recently been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
On Friday, at the event for her, Ms Mendy said: “I raised the issue of air pollution and soil contamination way back. “At a council meeting – many of us were there – I asked a friend to read a heartfelt letter. I pleaded for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to look into any health risks to us, the community. They reassured me that the risk of air and soil pollution remained low and there was no need to worry. Now we have these research findings, I’m asking: where is the humanity?”
She added: “Healthcare protection should be a right. But we know in reality the situation is quite different.”
Ms Mendy said she had regularly visited Grenfell to campaign and to pay tribute to her cousins – mother and daughter Mary Mendy and Khadija Saye – who died in the fire in June 2017.
Fire and chemical toxicity expert Professor Anna Stec studied samples taken from six locations around the tower.
She said: “There is undoubtedly evidence of contamination in the area surrounding the tower, which highlights the need for further in-depth, independent analysis to quantify any risks to residents.”
Soil samples led to several concerns including the discovery of phosphorous flame retardants, which can be toxic to the nervous system, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which can cause cancer. Ms Mendy, a lifelong activist, was described as a “fighter” by friends and family who joined her at the emotionally charged event in west London on Friday. She was too weak to speak through a microphone due to her condition – which affects the nervous system – but her statement was read out by a cousin.
Labour councillor Ian Henderson, of Kensington and Chelsea Council, had organised his friend Gordon Barclay’s bike ride which he finished to loud cheers around 1pm. The GMB union, which has also been fundraising for Ms Mendy, was at the finish line along with around 30 supporters.
In a statement, The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said: “We are taking Professor Stec’s findings extremely seriously, and fully appreciate the ongoing health concerns. We have established a comprehensive programme of environmental checks to fully assess the risks and take appropriate action. Our current public health advice recognises that contaminants in soil can be harmful but need to be breathed in, eaten or come into regular contact with the skin on a repeated basis over a long period of time. The advice therefore is aimed at reducing contact with debris or the soil.”