Environmental contamination following the Grenfell Tower fire

Chemosphere. 2019 Jul;226:576-586. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.03.153. Epub 2019 Mar 28.


The Grenfell Tower fire in central London, started within a flat, engulfed the whole 24 storey building in flames, killed 72 people and spread toxic effluent via the plume and particulate deposits. Soil samples from 6 locations up to 1,2 km from the Tower, together with semi-burnt fire debris and char samples, were collected 1 and 6 months after the fire. Additionally, dust samples and condensates were collected from a flat 160 m away from the Tower after 17 months. Samples were analysed for common potentially toxic components of fire effluents and synthetic vitreous fibres. Samples collected within 140 m of the Tower showed, amongst other toxicants, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin concentrations 60 times greater than UK urban reference soil levels; benzene levels were 40 times greater; levels of 6 key polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were approximately 160 times greater. PAHs levels are approximately 20 times greater than those reported from nearby Hyde Park before the fire. To explain the presence of these pyrogenic contaminants char and partially burnt debris were also collected and analysed. Benzene, PAHs, isocyanates and phosphorus flame retardants were found. Hydrogen cyanide and synthetic vitreous fibres were present in both soil and debris. Particulate and pyrogenic contamination in the immediate vicinity is clearly evident, and may have leached out of fire debris, char and dust. Further analysis of the area around the Tower is necessary to understand potential health risks.

Keywords: Dioxins; Grenfell Tower fire; Hydrogen cyanide; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Soil contamination; Synthethic vitrous fibres.

MeSH terms

  • Benzene / analysis
  • Coal / analysis
  • Dioxins / analysis
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis*
  • Fires*
  • Flame Retardants / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Cyanide / analysis
  • London
  • Metals / analysis
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Coal
  • Dioxins
  • Dust
  • Flame Retardants
  • Metals
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Hydrogen Cyanide
  • Benzene
  • dibenzo(1,4)dioxin