Legal firm representing tenants claims air in their homes contains toxins
New chemical concern on ‘contaminated’ estate
Toxic chemicals have been found inside homes on a Scottish estate where residents have experienced health problems.
Collins Solicitors, which represents residents of the North Lanarkshire Housing Association estate off Watling Street in Motherwell, commissioned tests on the air inside the homes between summer and autumn last year.
Residents contacted lawyers in summer 2009 after experiencing health problems such as nosebleeds and headaches and complaining of the smell of gas. They believe the ground is contaminated and that North Lanarkshire Council failed to carry out sufficient remedial work before allowing homes to be built.
The 400-home estate was constructed by Glasgow-based City Link Developments in the mid to late 1990s and the majority of homes are now owned by North Lanarkshire Housing Association.
North Lanarkshire Council has confirmed that electrical engineering firm Metropolitan-Vickers occupied the site where it manufactured medical equipment between the 1930s and 1950s. Last October, the authority revealed tests it commissioned from consultancy WSP Environmental found toxic chemicals in the open ground around the homes.
Now Collins Solicitors claims its team - a toxicologist, chemist and air dispersal expert - found a ‘significant number’ of chlorinated compounds and petroleum products, in particular toluene, an industrial solvent, in the air inside the properties. The Health Protection Agency says toluene can cause a variety of health issues including liver and kidney damage.
Des Collins, senior partner at the firm, which is representing residents on a no-win no-fee basis, said it was carrying out further analysis before releasing the full test results. He added that the chemicals found were present at levels ‘you would not normally expect to see’.
North Lanarkshire Council is unhappy that the firm has released its initial findings without the full results.
Stephen Penman, head of corporate communications at the authority, said: ‘It is simply bad science to infer that the presence of toluene or other chlorinated compounds in air samples are in any way linked to any alleged health conditions and we note that Collins choose not to present their “evidence” for these claims or the methodology used.’
The council has commissioned WSP Environmental to carry out further tests on the open ground around the homes, the results of which are due to be released next month.
North Lanarkshire Housing Association declined to comment.
How the residents’ campaign unfolded
Lawyer Elizabeth Craigmyle, of BMK Wilson, is contacted by residents who want to get to the bottom of their health problems
March and April 2010
Almost £20,000 is spent by North Lanarkshire Council on reports by consultancy WSP Environmental, which found the radiological risk to residents from the ground around their homes was low
Law firm Collins, which won a high profile land contamination case in Corby in 2009, gets involved and warns the council it could face court action
North Lanarkshire Council releases the results of a third test by WSP, which found toxic chemicals in the ground around the houses, including trichloroethylene, a solvent used for dry cleaning and textile processing