New tests at 'poison' nursery

A second investigation is being launched into a nursery at the centre of a contamination scare which allegedly left staff with blisters, blue mouths and severe stomach pains.

The North Woolwich Children's Centre, near London City Airport, closed last December after staff went down with a mystery illness. The eight nursery workers are still off sick and the building remains empty.

An investigation by Newham council failed to isolate any toxic material on the premises. But reports of similar symptoms by nearby residents has prompted a new investigation by the London Hazard Centre, a health and safety unit funded by local authorities.

Nursery staff believe toxic material may have been disturbed during the site's development. Soon after they began working at the centre in August last year they started to get severe headaches, felt they had flu and suffered constant tiredness, severe stomach pains and diarrhoea.

In severe cases, clumps of hair fell out, itchy blisters appeared on the skin and scalp. Parts of the inside of the mouth turned blue.

Although most of the symptoms have abated since they stopped work, staff still complain of diarrhoea, tiredness and violent headaches. Some of the black workers have developed white freckles and say their skin turned paler. The centre manager, Marissa Bagalo, lost clumps of hair and although most has grown back, there are visible thin patches.

She said: 'I started there on 8 August. The next morning I woke up with pains in my chest and I got skin irritations. When the heating went on the symptoms escalated. Lumps would appear under your skin and your blood would feel like you were boiling. Mouth ulcers would appear by mid week, although they would clear up at the weekend.'

Tests by Newham council have revealed high levels of white spirit in the nursery, which was purpose built with a pounds 800,000 grant from the London Docklands Development Corporation.

The council says any other substances found on the site are well within World Health Organisation limits, although a new ventilation system has been installed and further tests are being made. The council says there is no history of an industrial site in the area and no evidence of soil problems.

It also says none of the children who attended the nursery during the two-week period in December when it was open suffered symptoms.

Hugh MacGrillen, advice worker at the London Hazard Centre, blames lead in the land. 'The area has been industrialised for 180 years. We figure all kinds of things have been dumped there over the years.

'There is no doubt whatsoever they were ill . . . the symptoms they described were similar to those related to heavy metal poisoning. White spirit might have caused nausea or dizziness but it wouldn't have caused the other things.'

He supports claims by the workers' union, Unison, that the whole thing has been mismanaged by Newham council. 'If they had gone in and done a proper survey at the outset it would have sorted things out.'

It has emerged that some people living near by have similar symptoms. Mick Preston, who lives next door to the centre, complained of feeling constantly tired, of losing hairs on his legs and head, and having epileptic fits for the first time.

It was only after he attended a meeting held by social services director Deborah Cameron that he discovered nursery staff had similar symptoms. 'I had no reason to associate anything with the nursery. I had a funny taste in my mouth and a dry cough, dizzy spells and fits.'

Phil Thompson, chair of Newham Unison, agrees the council should have acted more quickly. 'They should not gamble with staff and children's lives. This was very much a high-profile project which had taken two or three years to get off the ground. The last thing they wanted was to admit something was wrong.'

The LDDC is putting pressure on the council to reopen the nursery - or start paying back some of the grant.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

    £30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

    Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

    Recruitment Genius: Part Time Bookkeeper / Office Administrator

    £17550 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a standalone role based...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'