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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

    Investigo: Finance Business Partner

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

    Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

    £8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project