From the Daily Mail today:
Conflict of interest row as it emerges Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance has £600,000 of shares in vaccine maker contracted to make UK's coronavirus jabs
See my previous blog post for info on Sir Pat's connections with the chemical industry. His mate, Sir Alan Penn, is also a Chief Scientific Advisor and fellow SAGE member. See my Grenfell Tower Fire page for information on how Penn has been blocking inquiries into the role flame retardants played in the Grenfell fire.
I work with a lot of people who are trying to get the government to do the right thing by way of the environment and public health, across a variety of government departments. They have all found the same corrupt systems in place, whereby scientific advisors are being well rewarded for ensuring that government policies and laws support business needs.
Similarly, it won't surprise anyone to learn that Sir Ken Knight has just been appointed Chair of a new committee comprising the Chairs of all relevant committees at the British Standards Institute which will have overall say on fire safety standards, including Grenfell. This followed me and colleagues exposing the Department of Business's intention to set up a panel of "experts" to control the future of the Furniture Regulations comprised almost entirely of flame retardant supporters. They've clearly "upped" this function to the new BSI committee where Sir Ken - long-time paid puppet of the FR industry - can ensure that nothing changes.
Sir Pat has not of course been punished in any way for this clear conflict of interests, despite Matt Hancock declaring that he knew nothing about it until he saw it in the papers. So it goes.
The mainstream media these days is not so strong on investigating the links between industry and scientists that by some remarkable coincidence always seem to result in more profits for Big Chem and Big Pharma, at the expense of public health and the environment.
Below, I've set out some facts about one of the key players, all of which remain unconnected by the MSM as far as I can tell. Make up your own mind about whether or not there are questions to be asked here.
Sir Patrick Vallance
As a footnote, it might be worth reminding ourselves of the following:
The last 6 years of fighting for safe, chemical-free furniture has shown me that for all intents and purposes the government and civil service in this country are fundamentally corrupt. Essentially, they serve business interests, even when these inflict huge harm on health and the environment, before they protect the public.
Examples are everywhere. The Grenfell Tower fire happened over 3 years ago when at least 72 people died awful deaths and hundreds more now have poor health as a result. Yet so far no answers have been provided and no one has been prosecuted. Which is no great surprise when, as detailed elsewhere on this site, the official Inquiry was taken over from the outset by industry and its bribed experts and scientists.
Another example: incinerators around the country are burning millions of old sofas and mattresses but do not have the capacity to neutralise the massive amounts of flame retardant chemicals they contain. In addition, there are regular fires at incinerators where further huge volumes of toxic material are also released into the environment. Councils turn a blind eye mainly because they need toxic waste to be "dealt with" and do not want to spend any more money than they have to on the process. The Environment Agency, too, turns a blind eye, even though it knows this illicit toxic waste is in breach of the Stockholm Convention. I challenged an official at the EA about this recently and he admitted this is true, his response being, "But what else can we do?"
This corruption also means there is a huge cost to our bank accounts. Let's for example look at furniture.
At the end of summer 2014, a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now BEIS) closed and the results were being discussed by the group of civil servants responsible. In short, the consultation was for a new match (ignition) test for the UK's Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. The new test would do two things: hugely reduce the use of toxic flame retardants in our sofas and mattresses (leading soon to their elimination altogether) and, believe it or not, actually make the Regulations work (the consultation provided the proof that they do not).
But the changes did not go ahead. One of those civil servants had been got at by the flame retardant industry and he made sure the process was delayed and delayed, with the result that 6 years on they still have not been introduced. The UK is now stuck with fire safety regulations that do not provide anything by way of safety, just around 150m kgs of flame retardants going into UK homes every year.
I hope he was well rewarded because his actions have provided the chemical industry with at least £300m a year that they would have otherwise lost. But there is also a cost to the public. Flame retardant treatment of sofas and mattresses is not cheap and the costs are passed on to the consumer. At a rough estimate, the UK public has had to stump up around £3bn for flame retardant treatment that should not have been necessary; and if the further elimination of FRs had gone ahead as planned, this figure is likely closer to £5bn. That's the cost of corruption by just one civil servant at exactly the right moment. Oh and by the way he sings in his church choir.
I haven't written a blog entry for some time. Unlike government departments, however, I am not going to blame the coronavirus for the delay. That's all government departments, by the way, not just the ones that are actually dealing with the virus. The government recently announced that there may be "understandable" delays in replying to Freedom of Information requests during the coronavirus lockdown. Well, one of my understandings is that most civil servants actually have more time on their hands during lockdown, simply because in working at home they are not spending most of their day in meetings.
My reason for not writing a blog entry for some time is that I've being doing a lot of work with some very good people that may bear fruit in terms of getting the government to finally do the right things where flame retardants in furniture is concerned, but it would be counter-productive to say too much at this stage.
To recap, however: this website focuses on the continuing scandal - one that actually gets worse as it goes on - of collusion between industry and corrupt and/or spineless civil servants with the result that everyone in the country is being posioned in their own homes by huge amounts of flame retardants that do not even work in preventing or slowing fires.
In fact, the more time you spend in your home - which the government currently insists upon - the more you will aborb flame retardants than normal, via your sofas, mattresses, cushions, etc. The damage this is doing to the nation's health dwarfs anything the virus can do. In my opinion.
Where flame retardants and fire safety is concerned, the entire operation is being controlled by big business and the puppet scientists and officials they bribe to sit on supposedly independent panels and committees that advise the government on policies. These experts are often based in universities that are also funded by business.
For example, the Fire Science unit at Imperial College receives funding from several big flame retardant producers. Surprise, surprise - the guys there are big fans of the UK's furniture fire safety regulations which lead to all those massive profits for the flame retardant industry. At the key time when the Department for Business had just proved the current regulations don't work and wanted to bring in new ones that would, while simultaneously hugely reducing toxic flame retardants in our furniture, Imperial got their guys on to the relevant panels and workshops. And they're still telling anyone who'll listen that the rest of the world should adopt furniture fire safety requirements just like the UK's. Even though they don't work.
If you care to do some internet research, you'll discover the many links between Imperial College and the massive PR company Burson Marsteller. BM represents the three big flame retardant producers and spends a fortune on promoting their products as wonderful life-savers in times of fire, while covering up any evidence that in fact they are incredibly toxic.
You might be interested to learn that BM also represents huge health care companies, including the kind that make vaccines and ventilators. Imperial, of course, are providing the computer modelled figures on coronavirus cases, deaths, etc, that our government is basing its virus policies on. But I'm sure the fact that a lot of money is going to made by these companies off the back of a pandemic is entirely coincidental.
Now lets go back a few days to the Second Reading of the new Fire Safety Bill, and the opening comments of James Brokenshire, Minister of State, Home Department.
"Almost three years have passed since the tragic events on the night of 14 June 2017. It was the greatest loss of life following a residential fire since the second world war. None of us will ever forget the events of that terrible night, and the Government are resolute in their commitment to ensure that they are never repeated. Those 72 people should never have lost their lives. Our thoughts today are very much with the victims’ families, survivors and fellow residents, who have had to rebuild their lives over the past three years.
"I know from my time as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the profound effect the events have had on the Grenfell community, but also that community’s sense of purpose and its clear demands for justice and change. I have had the privilege to meet survivors and their families, as well as those in the local community who joined together to support them. Those discussions have been humbling and harrowing. They have underlined the responsibility—indeed, the duty—on us to act. The Government will continue to provide support to the affected families and support the creation of a memorial on the site of the tower, a process that is rightly being led by the bereaved and the local community."
Lovely words, surely? Heatfelt, genuine, emotional and, what did he say, "humbling". Well, let's be clear: this man is a hypocrite of the highest order and his words here are bordering on sociopathic. Why? Because he has played a major role in blocking the truth of how most of the Grenfell victims died while at the same time protecting a highly-placed beneficiary of the chemical industry who'd infiltrated a Grenfell experts committee - chairing it in fact - with the primary purpose of ensuring that the real cause of deaths would never come out.
Don't think that sort of thing can go on in Britain? Well, check the rest of this website to learn how the Department for Business has decided to continue poisoning the entire country in order to protect industry profits and its own back. And how the same department lied about the report they commissioned to look into the fridge-freezer that started the Grenfell fire, stating to the world that the fridge-freezer was not a risk. While at the same time concealing the actual report which, when you study it in depth, shows that in fact the fridge-freezer was dangerous under the very conditions at play in the tower (especially the regular power surges) in order, one suspects, to protect profits of the company Whirlpool while also covering their backs for not having done anything about Whirlpool wash-dryers that keep catching fire. Oh, and of course to deflect attention from the fact that the very same department is also up to its neck in corruption over the furniture regulations.
Back to Mr Brokenshire. In 2018 I wrote to him to request that he ask Sir Ken Knight to stand down as Chair of the independent experts panel to the Grenfell Inquiry. I included eight pages of evidence that were cleared legally by a lawyer working for Grenfell survivors. In essence, this showed that Sir Ken is mired in conflicts of interest. Specifically, he played a major role in blocking safety changes to the UK's furniture flammability regulations, thereby ensuring the continuing massive profits to industry, including flame retardant producers who are, let's say, adept at finding their man. Sir Ken has refused to even look at the role played in the Grenfell fire by the failing furniture regulations, despite the fact that toxic fumes from burning sofas and mattresses played a large part in the deaths.
Sajid Javid was in charge at MHCLG when Grenfell happened and he appointed Sir Ken. I wrote to his successor, James Brokenshire, but neither he nor his department replied. After two fruitless reminders, I put in an FOI request. MHCLG's reply was this: "We will neither confirm nor deny we have the information you request." Not much information to be free with there then. Next, my MP wrote to MHCLG requesting a proper answer. Eventually (around six months after I'd written) she got a paper reply from the new Minister, Kit Malthouse. Malthouse claimed that the department had in fact replied to me by email several months ago. However, this was a lie on two grounds: first, I never received an email and second, he claimed that it had been sent before my FOI request, i.e. why didn't they just repeat it to me then? He also included a copy of the attachment he claimed had accompanied the email. Needless to say, there was no copy of the email itself since, well, that's not an easy thing to fake.
The attachment was from a civil servant and, true to form, spent most if its two pages repeating what I'd asked for and the way it goes about answering requests. There was only one line relevant to my request and all it said was that the Department had no reason to doubt Sir Ken's independence. I thought I'd have a word with this civil servant so phoned MHCLG and asked to be put through. After a pause, the switchboard official told me that no one by that name was listed as working at MHCLG.
Finally, a brief word about Matthew Hancock, sorry, Matt Hancock - Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He's the guy who's currently always on TV telling us what we must do about the coronavirus. Well, here's a couple of things you might not know about Mr Hancock.
While a Minister at BEIS in 2014, he and Oliver Letwin ganged up on the junior Minister Jo Swinson and pressured her into delaying changes to the Furniture Regulations. This, as said, ensured continuing massive profits to industry at the expense of public health. Then in 2017, on the day Grenfell Tower was burning, he and Letwin and Michael Gove met to discuss ways of further weakening building safety regulations in order to increas massive profits to industry at the expense of public health. This meeting had to be curtailed, no doubt, when someone informed them that dozens of people were burning right now in a block of flats that had caught fire due to weak regulations.
If you believe that the same Matt Hancock now has public health and safety as a priority over business interests, all I can say is why?
At my meeting with officials at the Office of Product Safety and Standards on 25 February 2020, they confirmed that:
"Until 2016, when he blew the whistle on spectacular malpractice within government, Terry Edge was the lead civil servant working on fire safety regulations for furniture. His research shows that, owing to decades of industry lobbying, homes in the UK have the world’s highest levels of dangerous flame retardants. It took until last year for mattresses and furniture containing the highly toxic retardant deca-BDE to be banned, under European law, from sale. Instead of prohibiting all such dangerous, persistent organic chemicals in furniture, the UK government has allowed one hazardous pollutant to be replaced by others (TCEP, TCPP and TDCP)."
At the same time George was drafting this article, I was at a meeting with the OPSS. This followed them stopping me from entering their stakeholder workshop earlier this month. Instead they invited me to a "special" meeting, i.e. without any other stakeholders present that might hear a few things the OPSS would rather they didn't.
So I turned up at their headquarters in an office block in Birmingham ten minutes early. A security man was waiting for me in the lobby and escorted me upstairs to the OPSS. Then he walked me to the meeting room about the size of a police interrogation room. On one side of a small table were three OPSS officials and on the other side was a single chair for me.
The lead official indicated said she would go through the slides they'd presented at the earlier workshop. This was a clear time-wasting tactic so I interrupted politely to say that since they'd only given this meeting an hour (despite me asking for two), I wanted to keep to key points at least to begin with. I said I'd seen the slides and would be happy to go into detail if there was time, for example to explain why so much of the content was clearly misinformed.
I began by listing my credentials where this subject was concerned, including the many events I'd been invited to speak at over the past few years or so and the key groups that have asked me to advise them. A lot of good people trust me, in other words. I didn't ask them to return the favour because, well, that might have been embarassing.
I inserted a little test for the OPSS. I told them that just yesterday, a conversation had taken place amongst experts around the world, initiated by my FBU colleagues. We were discussing how exactly toxicity is produced by flame retardants and the materials they affect when they burn. Probably no one has coordinated such information before.
Silence. Bear in mind that this is a vital subject for the OPSS to know about if in the very short time they've allocated they are to come up with their new "Essential Safety Requirements".
The thing is, if they really cared about fire and chemical safety they would have been all over me to have a record of the conversation, get in contact with the experts, take the subject further with them. Exactly how I used to be when leading these regulations.
Then again, they clearly failed to notice what their silence signified.
I then raised what I said was the key question: do you believe the current regulations provide fire safety and if so where's your evidence?
You can read a transcript of the first part of this debate here. But it probably won't surprise you to learn that they refused to provide a straight answer, despite me putting the same question in as many different ways as possible. And the answer is very important, given that they admitted that they are going to keep the current regulations in place until they have new ones, which will be at least another 9 years.
The fact is this point embodies a massive contradiction, I told them. On the one hand, they're saying that the current regulations provide fire safety; on the other, they're saying they need to come up with fire safety. And the first part is further contradicted by the fact that the evidence these regulations don't work is on their own website.
If in reading the transcription, you find yourself feeling sorry for "SS", don't be. She's extremely well-paid and apparently feels nothing at all about the fact she is consigning the entire UK population, including children, to several more years of sitting and sleeping on flammable products packed with flame retardants that are poisoning us all. Worse, while she's happy enough to claim the status of being the lead official on these regulations, whenever I asked her for her view on a key issue she said that it wasn't for her to answer.
She won't even implement the Environmental Audit Committee's recommendation 7 months ago to get children's products out of scope immediately. This despite one of the fire fighters getting a unanimous agreement to this at the recent OPSS workshop, even from the flame retardant producers (who clearly realise the game is up in this respect at least). She didn't even record the agreement in a meeting note. There wasn't even a meeting note. And now she has made the decision to keep known toxins in children's mattresses for at least another 9 years. No one else wants this. Why does she and the OPSS? There's only one reason I can think of: to cover their backs. They failed to put these regulations right 7 years ago and now must at all costs conceal the fact. Why can't they at least protect children? Because in their minds, taking children's mattresses, prams, buggies etc out of scope is the thin edge of the wedge. Next, adults might demand not to be poisoned too. Then the game would be up. Their careers and pensions might be slightly inconvenienced, a much more important issue than children getting cancers.
On the government's main website in June last year, it announced that the woman keeping children poisoned in their own homes, was awarded the OBE "for services to business and consumers". At least they got that in the right order of priority.
Last Friday on the Graham Norton show the actor Mark Ruffalo talked about his new film, "Dark Waters". He plays the lawyer Robert Bilott (who was in the audience) who took a major role in the court cases that eventually ruled against the huge US chemical company, Du Pont. For decades, Du Pont had been knowingly poisoning thousands of people by pumping waste into a river. The waste contained the chemical PFOA which is a critical component of Teflon and was proven, after many years and millions of dollars, to have directly caused 6 kinds of critical illnesses in people who it got into, including cancer.
At one point, Ruffalo addressed the studio audience, informing them that PFOA from Du Pont was in the blood of every American and everyone in the room. A strange collective stunned gasp filled the audience. I thought two things:
The difference being that while much of the American public is aware of Teflon and flame retardants in their systems, in the UK most of the public is not. The simple reason for this is that industry and government working together here have been more successful at hiding the truth.
It's also possible that the range of scandals covered by the issue of flame retardants used to meet the requirements of UK furniture flammability regulations that don't even work is greater even than Teflon and Du Pont.
It's difficult to boil it all down to simple bullet points so what I thought I'd do is focus on just a few of the events of the past couple of weeks, starting with our discovery of a massive environmental disaster occurring on a daily basis, then describe two workshops held by the Government department chiefly responsible.
PART ONE - THE GREAT WASTE FURNITURE SCANDAL
[I am about to update this section soon, having recently come across new information on this subject.]
PART TWO - "IT'S VERY SIMPLE. YOUR NAME ISN'T ON THE LIST"
Finally then, last week the Office of Product Safety and Standards (an agency of BEIS), held a stakeholder workshop to discuss the future of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations. Leaving aside a couple of restricted (mostly to industry) chats in late 2016, this is an incredible 6 years since they proved the Regulations don't work.
And it's 7 months since they replied to the Environmental Audit Committee's recommendations to change the Regs and get rid of flame retardants in our furniture, as well as take children's products out of scope immediately. In their reply to the EAC they said they were going to be working hard with stakeholders over the coming year to put things right. I guess they must be planning an intense last minute 5-month run-in, maybe just to keep the excitement levels up. Will they do it in time? Well, I wouldn't put any money on that; especially when there's so much dosh riding on them continuing to do bugger all.
Ah, but what about all those cuts to the civil service; lack of resources and all that? Well, it doesn't seem to have affected the OPSS. Back in 2013-2014 when an amazing amount of work was done to research, test, consult on and produce a new match test that was not only less toxic but actually provided fire safety, unlike the current one, there was only one person at BIS working full-time on these Regulations. The OPSS now has seven. Similarly, the team looking after product safety back then was around 20 people. OPSS now has 300 working for it on the same subject. What are they all doing? No one really knows.
Anyway, a two-part workshop was scheduled - first in London on Tuesday 4th February, then repeated in Birmingham on 6th February. Each workshop would be for just two hours duration (when someone complained about this being too short to give up a day of their time for, the response was that the workshop was to hear people's views - even though DTI/BIS/BEIS must have heard every view going in the ten years that they have been reviewing these Regulations). Unlike the workshops held before 2015, there was no request for agenda items and no background papers other than a repeat of the vague statements made last year about BEIS's "New Approach". In case you're wondering, this entails taking into account new materials and reducing flame retardants. The current team of 7 plus managers seems to be completely unaware that this is exactly what was done in the 2014 consultation, repeated in the 2016 consultation.
It probably won't come as a huge surprise to readers of this blog that I was not invited to the workshops. I therefore wrote to BEIS to apply for the Birmingham session, listing my credentials. As is the way of officials these days when they don't have an answer, BEIS did not reply. So I wrote again and copied it in to some names that might worry them a bit. This time I received a reply from Sarah Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of the OPSS, presumably having decided that it wasn't wise to completely ignore me.
Now the thing is, I was a civil servant for 27 years so should have been prepared for the various subtle ways civil servants can appear to be saying, "Please do attend" when they're actually saying, "Fuck off", but I was still taken in good and proper by Smith. She did not say you can't come to the workshop. She did say that they were holding a series of events and I was invited to one in Birmingham on the 27th February. I asked around and no one else I knew who was attending the workshop had been invited to these extra ones. In my should-no-better naivety, I took this as a sign that BEIS finally wanted to do the right thing and follow the EAC's recommendations. Clearly, they wanted to meet me separately to get me on board, and on-boarding would have been something I'd have been happy to do if it would lead to them finally putting a stop to the mass-poisoning of the entire UK population.
But then a colleague told me about a business event that the OPSS had held a few months ago in which they'd provided a short update on the Furniture Regs. They had been very gung-ho about in effect continuing to delay for several more years - sorry, to launch the New Approach - so perhaps I needed to read Smith's email more closely. And the person giving the update had actually lost her temper when someone suggested that BEIS should not be working with the British Standards Institute since BSI had turned them down for the same work in 2015 on the basis that they should not be working on regulations; that such work is too political for what is meant to be a neutral standards-making body and one that receives funding from BEIS. I've seen senior civil servants lose their temper before, and it's nearly always when they meet non-civil servants. Inside the service, rank is everything and junior staff soon learn that the way to get a good report and promotion is to agree with absolutely anything a more senior official tells you. Thus, some of them get completely confused when unbrainwashed people challenge them, and anger is often the result.
So I looked again at Smith's email and realised that she could in fact be implying that I wasn't invited to the workshop and the one-hour (yes, just one hour) meeting with me was simply a tick-box exercise so they could say they'd heard Edge's views (and of course ignored them). But I decided to go to Birmingham anyway on the grounds that a) they had not specifically told me I couldn't and b) the London Fire Brigades Union Contaminants Group had separately invited me to the meeting as their technical adviser. One of them had written to the OPSS to inform them of this arrangement and heard nothing back by way of "No, you can't bring your advisor."
So we're outside the door of the OPSS, inside Cannon House, Birmingham, and there is a woman standing by a table of name badges. I go up to her and say, "Terry Edge". Her reaction would not get her a job with MI5 any time soon; that is, she literally jumped in fright, grabbed her phone and got frantically texting. "Is there a problem?" I said. "I'm on it; I'M ON IT!" she shouted.
Obviously, she had been told to expect me. Which means the OPSS had deliberately not told me specifically that I was not invited, even though they knew I probably thought I was. They were prepared for me to travel from London to Birmingham at my own expense only to tell me to fuck off at the door. Why? Well, that may require an analysis of the mind-set of civil servants but in short it's all about back-covering. If they'd actually made it clear I wasn't invited, it would have been in writing on record, which they know would have been widely circulated. By tricking me, I had not objected to being excluded and in their minds that's the same as me accepting their decision.
This theory was confirmed when the Man with the Paper appeared from inside the OPSS. He took me to one side but unfortunately for him I was followed by my two FBU colleagues and a colleague who makes flame retardant free furniture, Mark. What we faced from the Man with the Paper, Duncan Johnson, is the kind of circular reasoning I came up against many times during my battles with senior managers at BEIS. If you want to hear the actual conversation as recorded on a phone (apologies for the sometimes poor sound quality) you can listen to it here.
In essence, an OPSS official called Duncan Johnson appeared outside the door waving a piece of paper. He tried to talk to me separately but my colleagues joined the conversation. He did not introduce himself and only gave us his name when one of us asked for it after a couple of minutes. He at least had a simple line of argument which was I could not go in because my name was not on the list. He did not appear to understand this logic was contradicted when one of the FBU guys pointed out that at the London workshop two days before he'd walked in and taken part without his name being on the guest list.
He was also oblivious to the fact the FBU had been told by the OPSS that they could bring their technical advisor which they had done, which was me. Mark tried to point out that this action would make the OPSS look silly, in that they were turning away someone with enormous experience of the subject to hand with no reason give. Johnson at one point said that the purpose of the workshop was to listen to more than one opinion, thereby upping the absurdity, which possibly peaked when the meeting started and an OPSS official claimed there wasn't enough room there for me. "There's a spare chair right there," said a colleague.
One of the frustrations of dealing with civil servants is that they will never be straight with you. In this instance, they did not have the balls to tell the truth, which is that they didn't want me at the meeting because I'd brought a whistle-blowing case against their department. Instead they act like parents sometimes do, justifying their rules with, "Because I say so." When the lack of logic behind their decision was challenged, he threatened to call Security.
So I didn't go in but in the event barring me back-fired badly on the OPSS. Not only did they expose themselves as operating purely on a back-covering basis, they got hammered massively in the meeting by good people who are frankly tired of their nonsense and, in the case of the firefighters, people who are on the sharp end of toxic fires on a daily basis, hugely contributed to by civil servants.
PART THREE - POISONING CHILDREN AS THEY SLEEP? I NEVER WANTED TO, MATE
At the London workshop, OPSS began by pretty much stating that the Regulations do not work but insisted that was all in the past; they were not going to discuss that; instead, they wanted to rip up the Regulations and start again with their "New Approach".
This was a significant departure from what they have been saying for the past three years, not to mention from the words they've been putting in Ministers' mouths, i.e. that the Minister will not do anything to reducefire safety. Here we see that old sneaky civil service juggling technique. They're trying to imply that they're not starting again because the Regulations don't work but because they have decided not to talk about it. Everyone should just accept that they're finally going to act. Except they're not, as we'll see in a minute.
Besides, the Regulations are a problem now, not just in the past. They don't provide fire safety; they are poisoning just about every person in the country as they sit and sleep, and they're producing millions of kilograms of toxic flame retarded sofas and mattresses that are not being disposed of effectively or legally.
There is another problem with the OPSS writing off the past which is that for the period 2009-2014, an enormous amount of work was done on the review of the Regulations; every stakeholder had their say and every issue was exhaustively discussed. Which means at least another five years are now going to be required if they start again and that's just to repeat what's already been done.
But what's this? The OPPS tells the London workshop that new Regulations will be in place by 2022! There is no other way to describe this than as an out and out lie. Even if they had all their new requirements ready to go now, it would take more than two years to consult on them, write them into law, pass them through Parliament, etc.
The OPSS in any case contradicts itself later by later stating that this timespan may in fact have to be extended because of necessary "testing work". And later, their prediction gets blown out of the water when the representative from the British Standards Institute states that BSI will need at least 5 years to produce the new standards.
But let's take these timings at face value for now:
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, BEIS announced that the current Regulations will remain in place until the new ones are ready.
Which means we face another minimum of NINE YEARS (and fifteen is more realistic) during which UK citizens will continue to suffer the highest in the world levels of flame retardants in their homes, and the environment will suffer from between 3600-5000 equivalent Grenfell Tower fires.
How on earth can this be happening? Well, a couple of years ago, in a private meeting between government officials, a representative from BEIS admitted that they know the Regulations don't work but can't admit it because that would be letting the world know that they've neverworked. This is how many civil servants think: cover one's back first; protect public second. Sorry, the public actually comes third: business interests come second, particularly where BEIS is concerned.
The atmosphere was apparently fairly cosy in London, probably because the majority of business stakeholders present would be extremely pleased to see the current Regulations continue. Ker-ching and all that. But you can probably guess that things were rather more feisty in Birmingham. The OPSS was heavily criticised for excluding me by those with an interest in protecting the public. Those not so were less critical: "No one wants to hear the opinion of Terry Edge," said Peter Wragg of FRETWORK, the man who makes his living by pumping toxic chemicals into our furniture. The same man, by the way, whose only proof that the Regulations work is "The Case of the Pink Cushion" - and no you really couldn't make it up but you can read about it here.
To cut to the quick, one person who has not been educated into the etiquette of such meetings - which is to nod quite a lot, say nothing contentious and go back to company headquarters reporting that it was all "very positive" - did what the OPSS should have done, which was to ask, "Does everyone agree that we need to take flame retardants out of children's products?" which is of course in effect what the EAC recommended: to remove kids' products from the scope of the Regulations.
Perhaps surprisingly, this received unanimous approval. Well, maybe not too surprising. After all, the chemical and furniture industries must know the writing is on the wall. Flame retardants have been banned from children's mattresses and other products in large parts of the USA, and they're not in EU children's furniture either. The EAC was publicly incredulous, even angry, to learn that the UK furniture industry is poisoning our kids as they sleep. But don't be fooled: these people, e.g. FRETWORK and the National Bed Federation, were not agreeing to such a ban because they care about children. If they did, they'd have proposed the same thing at some stage over the past 10 years of the review, and certainly since 2014 when it was proved the Regs don't even work. They're doing it to follow the OPSS: cover their backs for when the public finally finds out what they've been up to in the name of profit.
What happened next was that individuals insisted that they weren't in fact guilty of poisoning children. Mostly they blamed someone else but Peter Wragg claimed he/they had always said this. Well, I'll check my notes when I get time, Peter, but I don't recall you ever suggesting such a thing. Even at meetings where the Baby Products Association was present too, and lobbying for the removal of kids' products from scope. If you can produce evidence that you did indeed express such a desire, I will be happy to apologise.
This agreement is of course a potential breakthrough but OPSS will still need to be chased down. Because they will not be thinking, thank God, kids will soon be poison-free. No, they will be thinking, shit, if we take out kids' products because flame retardants cause harm, what's to stop cries to remove adult products too? And if that happens are backs are well and truly in danger of being uncovered.[Update: the OPSS has indeed already betrayed this agreement. I met them on 25 February where when pressed admitted that they intend to keep children's products in scope alongside everything else for the next 9+ years - more in my next blogpost.]
Watch this space, as they say.
A final thought: I was speaking to a friend the other day who has dedicated her life to product safety enforcement. She told me she was getting out. "Of the profession?" I said. "No, of the country," she replied. Then went on to say that her job has become impossible because, what the UK public doesn't realise, is that the government, local authorities and councils in this country do not exist to protect citizens, they exist to protect business interests.
PART FOUR - AFTERTHOUGHTS
My friends and colleagues stayed on after the Birmingham meeting finished to speak to various people, including OPSS officials. One colleague mentioned to the OPSS that this is not personal, it's about trying to make fires less toxic. The same OPSS official who'd lost her temper a few months ago replied that in fact it ispersonal. Terry Edge, she said, had treated the department (BEIS) very badly.
This comment again reveals much about the civil servant mentality. The fact is I brought a whistle-blowing case against BEIS purely because my conscience made me. BEIS itself is responsible for whistle-blower policy which clearly states that whistle-blowing is a good thing because it helps institutions to improve. And that any one bringing a case will not be punished for doing so. In my case, BEIS performed very badly, as you can read about elsewhere on this site. They also punished me by sacking me from the job I loved doing. And now, I suggest, they are punishing me again by not admitting me to meetings on a subject I'm an expert in.
There is also the small matter that I was never proved wrong in my whistle-blowing case; the department just in effect waved a piece of paper in my face and insisted it proves I didn't win because it says I didn't.
To conclude: every UK person reading this is being poisoned in their own homes because government officials need to protect their backs from the truth that they have failed to put right regulations they know do not work.
At one point in Birmingham, Alan spoke to the seven OPSS officials working on the Furniture Regulations. He pointed out that Terry Edge was the only person today who'd travelled to the meeting at his own expense, because he believes in protecting the environment and the public. He hoped that they would also find something they believe in.
The tragedy is that if they do, they'll almost certainly face censure and exclusion from their managers whose sole motivation is to protect their careers and pensions. And in at least one case, have accepted a hefty financial reward from the chemical industry to make sure the environment and the public take second place to profits.
I haven't put anything on this Blog page for a while (although there are new pieces on other pages). But there has been a lot happening recently, albeit everything gets muffled and muted or just plain ignored by the government/councils when they have the excuse of a general election to hide behind.
I thought it would be useful to post a kind of State of Play piece. This is based around what I have been sending to various journalists and organisations apparently dedicated to exposing corruption.
THE TOXIC CHEMICAL ELEPHANT IN EVERYONE'S HOME INCLUDING EVERY FLAT IN GRENFELL TOWER
This story concerns what was described by an environmentalist colleague to the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee as the worst scandal in UK product history, and I think he's right. Mary Creagh asked us to write a paper about it after which, while admitting that it had turned her prematurely grey hair even greyer, she got the EAC to launch an inquiry based around it, which concluded earlier this year: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201919/cmselect/cmenvaud/160/160.pdf
This is an issue that some UK journalists have reported on briefly but have failed to investigate past the point where they would be personally criticising some very powerful people, including leading Tory ministers. The BBC have done a couple of pieces, including a pretty good Newsnight article of about 12 minutes in December 2017(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovcu2GY_yrg and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42343237) which covered the subject well, although probably in too much detail for such a short piece.
After the EAC published its final report in July 2019, many mainstream papers ran articles, e.g. front page on the Daily Mail (focussing on UK mother's breast milk containing the highest levels of flame retardant chemicals in the world). Private Eye also did a piece based on what we supplied them. But there was not much follow-up; which might be due to fear of exposing the huge levels of corruption around the subject. Which is somewhat in contrast to the USA, by the way, which has produced a number of excellent and damning documentaries on how the chemical industry is poisoning everyone for profit, e.g. "The Merchants of Doubt", "The Devil We Know" (now a movie starring Mark Ruffalo, titled "Dark Waters") and one that focusses on exactly the same subject and companies as in the UK, "Toxic Hot Seat" - an HBO movie directed by Robert Redford's son. Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for their work on this subject). The recent case of Du Pont poisoning the entire USA with the main chemical in Teflon (same family as the brominated flame retardants used in our furniture) is covered in “The Devil We Know” and “Dark Waters”, and is very encouraging in that the company’s guilt was established (eventually) in the courts – meaning Du Pont is currently open to a massive number of individual damages cases.
In short, we believe this story is crying out for to be fully explored in the UK as it was by the Chicago Tribune and others in the USA.
Below, I've listed headline points. You can probably see from this that if this subject was fully blown open, it would expose, for example, the Grenfell Inquiry as incompetent and being manipulated by the flame retardant industry in order to protect its markets. Similarly, it would expose the fact that the UK furniture industry is knowingly poisoning children as they sleep for profit. It would hugely embarrass and perhaps even threaten the future of at least one government department. It would expose leading Tory MPs as having deliberately blocked important safety changes to fire legislation (see below for Boris Johnson's odd reference to all this in his leadership speech). It could also expose the fact that high level officials in the fire sector, including the Fire Brigades Union, have deliberately kept their own members at risk of cancer in order to take money from the chemical industry.
I am advisor to the London Fire Brigade’s newly-formed post-event hygiene and contamination group, formed of front-line FBU firefighters who are about to take up this role full-time. They are making huge waves within the fire sector, mainly because they are rightly angry that the full truth of the toxicity of UK fires has not been revealed to them by management. One of the main focuses of their work is the high levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals in UK upholstered furniture (more info below).
Another thing many of the fire safety/flame retardants club members have in common is that they support children’s charities. This is how Mike Hagen opens his written submission to the Environmental Audit Committee:
“My name is Michael John Hagen. My CV is attached at the end of this submission. I served as a professional firefighter for over 33 years from 1978. Since leaving the Fire Service in late 2011, I have campaigned on Fire Safety on a part-time basis, mainly at a European level, until the end of 2018. Due mainly to the time pressures from my increasing (voluntary) involvement running a charity supporting education in Nepal, I recently reduced my fire safety work.”
And this is how he ends it:
“Meanwhile, it would never have crossed my mind as a young firefighter in Lancashire in 1978 that, one day, I would be named under parliamentary privilege simply for trying to save lives - I think I should be flattered!”
It was me who named him under parliamentary privilege – as someone who is supported by the flame retardant industry with large sums of money for what he claims is “independent” work in fire safety.
I find it interesting that he was the only witness who mentioned their charity work which, let’s face it, is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Unless that’s part of its function, to show that this is not the kind of person who would ever cause anyone harm, especially children. Another ex-firefighter also ran a children’s charity but suddenly shut it down when he retired from his full-time job at the time, which was promoting flame retardants. Another of them supports a children’s burns charity which is somewhat ironic since he is a firm supporter of flame retardants which he knows do nothing for the fire safety of our furniture, just get into children’s blood causing a multitude of health problems and, when they burn, shorten the time to incapacitation which means children in a furniture fire are more likely to suffer burns.
I believe it’s important to call out these hypocrites with psychopathic tendencies. Who know full well – because they were involved every step of the way – that we proved 5 years ago that the Furniture Regulations do not work. But instead of helping to put them right, they’ve chosen to lie to anyone who will listen that they do save lives. Why? Because they are being funded – both professionally and almost certainly personally – by the flame retardant industry.
If you go to my page, THE CASE AGAINST FLAME RETARDANTS, Part Two is the email I sent to Hagen on 23 October. I’m publishing it because I believe it’s a good example of how these people lie and profit from knowingly pushing fire safety measures they know do not work. It shows how, for example, the flame retardant industry controls puppets like Hagen to do their work, with in this case, the single tool of constantly expressing an opinion as fact until everyone believes them. Also, how they set up respectable-looking international fire safety conferences that inevitably attract decent people who don’t know better, whose presence is used in turn by the FR industry to further justify their products. Just like Scientology.
As of today, 27th October, Hagen has not replied [update: no reply by 13 January 2020; safe to assume therefore that there will not be one]. He may be wary of the extensive copy list I included. But it’s an open challenge: if he can prove me wrong, I’ll happily and publicly admit it and apologise to him.
But both he and I know I’m right. Therefore, aside from more opinion-expressed-as-fact there isn’t anything he can say by way of reply. It’s most likely he’ll take the coward’s way out and not reply. This is common, in my experience. It’s utterly pathetic, of course, but at least it’s confirmation of sorts that you’ve called them out accurately for the dangerous liars that they are.
Groucho Marx famously once turned down the offer to join an exclusive gentlemens' club, informing that quite frankly, he wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member. What makes this really funny is that he probably wasn't joking.
The fire safety world is full of clubs, associations and federations. None of them has ever asked me to join which is a shame since that means I can't do a Groucho on them. But it does at least tell me that I'm probably on the right track.
I did manage to slip through the net towards the end of 2017 and get a speaking spot at the FIRE Congress, "Out of the flames: a fire safe future after the tragedy of Grenfell Tower". Many of the fire clubs were present: National Fire Chief's Council, Fire Sector Federation, Fire Protection Association, LFB, FBU and others. Although the event was intended to look at the lessons of Grenfell and plan a fire safe future for all, there weren't any Grenfell residents there, quite possibly because ticket prices started at just over £200 for the day. What was the main solution all these clubs came up with? You probably guessed it - to set up a new Council/Association/Academy (I forget precisely which), that would of course mean yet another club to join; new expenses to claim and dinners to attend.
There is an unoffical club of clubs within the fire sector, and most of its members were present that day, for example Dave Sibert then of the FBU (before he got sacked for colluding with the flame retardant industry) and another great lover of flame retardants, Paul Fuller, who had to leave early because he had another charity dinner to attend. I'd been invited to dinner the night before by the congress organiser. Sibert and Fuller were there too (although they went through convolutions to make sure they weren't sitting next to me) but while they could wave their union paid for credit cards at the waiter, I had to pay for my own dinner. Staying Groucho clearly costs.
And so the same names crop up again and again in these fire clubs. Why is that a problem? Well, they do of course all know each other; go to the same conferences; stay at the same hotels; buy each other drinks, etc. Bottom line? Five years ago, the government proved that the Furniture Regulations are not fit for purpose; that they aren't fire-safe. Yet not one of these club members has done a single thing about that, even though they're meant to be dedicated to fire safety. Not a single one of them has ever denied it's true, either.