I have written, several times, in what can safely be described as scathing terms, of the actuality and aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Whether you agree with me or not, is perhaps beside the point. At least seventy-nine people died, and someone should be held accountable; whether anything written about the facts should be in sarcastic terms is up to the writer. If you have a problem; deal with it. I won’t change, and probably the average OoL reader will not change either.
We should now turn to the Sky News Grenfell bombshell which, strangely enough, was met with almost complete silence and lack of publicity;
I would repeat those sad statistics:- Cost = 126, savings = 119 times; Fire Safety= 0
And some went further; claiming that elements of the plastics industry were not only helping to write the rules that require more insulation to be fitted to buildings, but were also trying to silence people who questioned whether plastic insulation was safe.
Time after time we were told the plastic insulation industry was highly litigious, that speaking out about its fire safety was impossible, and that while the story should be told, no-one would go on camera. Eventually we found a former government scientist who agreed to talk, on condition of anonymity, about the pressures he faced. He said threats to sue him had made him unwell.
“If you’ve got no [legal] insurance you lose your house,” he said. “It was a worrying time and they were quite famous for it – people knew this was the way they reacted.” He says he doesn’t think the work he did was influenced by the threats, but they had an effect: “I think perhaps more than anything else other people were silenced – by saying ‘Oh, you’d better not say anything about that, look what happened to him,’” he told us.
In 2013 an insurance firm set fire to plastic insulation panels to demonstrate that they burned more fiercely in real life than they did in official tests and posted the video on YouTube. It might explain, they suggested, why hundreds of millions of pounds of fire damage had been caused in a spate of factory fires. They were immediately threatened with legal action and had to remove all references that could have identified the manufacturer.
And the week after the Grenfell Tower fire, six European plastic industry lobby groups complained in a letter to the respected publishers of a peer-reviewed paper on the dangers of toxic smoke from burning plastic insulation written by chemistry and fire safety expert Professor Anna Stec at the University of Central Lancashire. “We request that the article is withdrawn,” it said. “The consequences […] are enormous and could well lead to significant consequential losses.” It ended: “We feel you should consider this very seriously.”
This link gives the Terms of Reference for the actual Inquiry. Perhaps we should be enquiring ourselves as to why there is absolutely no reference made to the alarming and possibly even illegal pressures placed upon scientists and indeed of universities to withdraw, censor, or modify anything written which might be deleterious to the Plastic Insulation Industry? Perhaps we should also be asking why Celotex itself is not mentioned within those same Terms of Reference; seeing as it was so keen to join the DECC Committee on Insulation for homes; as their spokesman Rob Warren was quoted as stating:- Warren had told them regulatory change was the “greatest driver” of plastic insulation sales. Without new regulations he was reported as saying: “You cannot give insulation away and the public are not really interested.”
The changes in the approach to the problems of defeating the problems associated with high-rise buildings which are badly insulated, from individual flats being insulated with Rockwool on the inside to whole buildings being wrapped in that same Rockwool was taken up with enthusiasm, especially as it was seen as Local and National Government pushing through something which was both giving added insulation to the whole building, and at the same time being perfectly safe, because Rockwool does not burn, hold combustion or catch fire. It may char; but will not burn.
I reckon the DECC people will have to answer one very simple question:- How did a sensible insulation idea get turned around into a policy of wrapping whole high-rises in flammable, dangerous and, as it turned out; Lethal Plastic Wrapping?