12-year-old Grenfell survivor Luana Gomes was treated for the effects of cyanide poisoning by King’s College Hospital, it has emerged.
Luana’s sister Megan and her mother Andreia were also both treated for risk of inhaling cyanide.
Her mother, Andreia Gomes, was seven months pregnant at the time, but lost her baby shortly after the fire.
Medical discharge papers released to the BBC show that Luana Gomes received two doses of hydroxycobalamine “for cyanide poisoning”. Her mother and sister also received the drug.
It had previously been reported that the cyanide antidote had been administered to three survivors, but it was not known until now that the diagnosis of cyanide poisoning had actually been made in Luana Gomes’ case.
It is understood that the highly toxic cyanide gas was likely to have been released when insulation or plastics within the building burned. Cyanide is commonly used in the manufacture of many plastics. As a result, the effects of cyanide inhalation are often seen after house fires.
There is some dispute, however, over the source of the cyanide gas, especially as it could pertain to the cladding of the building which has already come under scrutiny. The aluminium and plastic panels, which were added in a recent refurbishment and have been criticised as a less fire resistant, cost-cutting measure, covered a layer of foam insulation installed to improve the building’s energy efficiency.
It is not yet known exactly which materials in the tower released the cyanide on combustion. However the foam insulation installed on the outside of the building is known to produce the gas when burned. Like all plastics it is made from crude oil, and contains a great deal of nitrogen which releases carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide when burned.
A spokesman for the British Rigid Urethane Foam Manufacturer’s Association (BRUFMA), the trade body which represents makers of insulation of the kind used at Grenfell Tower, said no assumptions should be made about what materials created toxic gases in the fire.
“Gases given off by any burning material are toxic. The greatest toxic hazard in almost all fires is due to carbon monoxide,” he said. “There is no evidence to suggest that PIR (rigid polyisocyanurate) presents any special hazard in terms of toxicity.”
However, Andreia Gomes told BBC Newsnight that she feels deep anger towards whoever was responsible for deciding to place cheaper, less fire retardant cladding on Grenfell Tower.
“You just killed my son,” she said. “If it was in a normal situation, I could have gone out. And he was seven months. He could have survived […] But because of the conditions, he passed away.”
Andreia and her husband Marcio also spoke of how they led their daughters to safety out of the burning building on the night of the fire.
On a related note, one of the original planners of the Lancaster Estate, of which Grenfell Tower is a part, has today spoken about his shock and sadness over the fire. Architect Peter Deakins spoke about the planning and site administration in the era of the block’s construction.
“The way buildings were detailed, there was so much control, there were so many fire officers involved, and building regulations under the London Building Acts – it was far more strict”, he said.
Grenfell Tower was built in the mid-1960s, an era in which council architectural projects were designed, managed and built by “in-house” teams, many of which became lauded in their own right.
These days, the way in with council building projects have been privatised and delegated to a complex chain of construction firms has been a point of contention for those seeking to understand and pinpoint the errors that were made in the months and years leading up to the Grenfell fire.
KCW Today’s July issue features a detailed timeline of events leading up to the Grenfell disaster, including architectural decisions made by RNKC council and Grenfell tenants’ fears over fire safety.