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).
- The UK's Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 set the toughest flammability requirements for domestic upholstered furniture in the world. In 2014 the Department for Business proved they do not work but is allowing business to block safety changes, the cost of which is that UK homes contain over 1200 million kgs of toxic flame retardant chemicals – highest levels in the world in mothers' breast milk and babies' blood - which provide little to no fire safety.
- It has been proven that flame retardants in furniture actually make fires far more toxic because when they burn, they quickly release large volumes of toxic fumes such as hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used in Nazi concentration camps.
- Millions of UK sofas and mattresses still contain the flame retardant DecaBDE which was banned for being toxic: no warning to the public and, unlike with asbestos, no system for removal and safe disposal – in fact, the Department for Business and Defra is colluding to allow dumping of toxic furniture in landfill to continue rather than charge business with costly safe disposal.
- Much of the Grenfell Inquiry experts' input is being controlled by the flame retardant industry, helped by government collusion (especially the Department for Business), in order to prevent the main truth of the fire emerging: that the major element to the toxicity that killed people came from burning flame retardants in upholstered furniture, not from cladding.
- The Department for Business lied about its investigation into the fridge-freezer that started the Grenfell Tower fire, stating that the product was safe when close inspection of the technical report (which the Department also concealed) shows that in fact it was actually unsafe.
- Mirroring the USA, the flame retardant industry bought (and buys) high-ranking officials in the UK fire sector who played a prominent role in blocking changes to the Furniture Regulations that would have made them fire-safe and also greatly reduced these chemicals in our furniture, e.g. Bob Graham, Paul Fuller, Dave Sibert, Jon O'Neill and in particular Sir Ken Knight – chair of the Grenfell Inquiry's independent experts panel who has ignored all requests to look at the role played by the unfit Furniture Regulations in the Grenfell fire.
- In order to protect the backs of civil servants who colluded with industry 5 years ago to block safety changes to the Furniture Regulations, the government keeps telling everyone that the Regulations work – even though the proof that they don't is on the Department for Business's own website!
- Senior Tory MPs have actively blocked safety changes to the Furniture Regulations in order to maintain industry profits: Oliver Letwin, Matthew Hancock, Sajid Javid, James Brokenshire, Kit Malthouse, with Boris Johnson aware and almost certainly covering them, e.g. he made a mitigating (and totally inaccurate) reference to the Regulations and flame retardants in his opening leadership, apparently trying to cover himself should the upcoming EAC report finger such Tory MPs.
- A corrupt official at the Department for Business leaked information to industry which then instructed Stephen McPartland MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group, to threaten the Business Minister, Jo Swinson, with a judicial review if she went ahead with changes to the Furniture Regulations – he was rewarded with a place on the board of Furniture Village and £40K a year for nominal work input - and after further pressure from Oliver Letwin and Matthew Hancock, Swinson did indeed choose to delay the changes. Swinson's husband, Duncan Hames, was also a member of this group.
- The Environment Audit Committee's report into toxic chemicals in everyday life (July 2019) found against the Department for Business and recommended that it immediately change the Furniture Regulations to make them fire safe and remove flame retardant chemicals; also to remove children's mattresses from scope; but the government responded to in effect say it's going to do nothing for years to come.