The death of a two-year-old boy from the effects of living in a flat with extensive mould should be “a defining moment for the housing sector” and highlights the importance of proper ventilation in buildings to improve indoor air quality.
Inappropriate levels of ventilation and subsequent growth of fungus and spores can lead to significant health issues and, in this case, death.
Mark Chapman, Syntegra’s Director of Environmental Services, warned:
“It is critically important that those responsible for managing indoor environments respond quickly to even the smallest visual indicators of poor ventilation such as the presence of mould, condensation, and damp. Inexpensive and effective solutions are often available to minimise and even avoid adverse health impacts on occupants.”
Awaab Ishak died shortly after his second birthday in December 2020.
Joanne Kearsley, the coroner, found that he “died as a result of a severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment” and “action to treat and prevent the mould was not taken”.
Describing the property, which was owned and managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, the coroner said it “was not equipped for normal day-to-day living activities, which led to excess damp and condensation”.
“There is little doubt that the tragic death of Awaab Ishak will and should be a defining moment for the housing sector.”
Awaab was rushed to hospital on 19 December 2020 after struggling to breathe but was discharged the following morning, the coroner was told.
He returned the next day and died after suffering a cardiac arrest brought on by respiratory failure.
His throat, windpipe and other airways were so swollen and congested that breathing would have been made difficult, Dr Phillip Lumb, who carried out the post-mortem examination, said.
Fungus was found in his blood and lungs, with such severe inflammation suggesting an allergic reaction to it, he said.
He gave the cause of death as “environmental mould pollution”.
Gareth Swarbrick, subsequently sacked as chief executive of the housing association, said: “We didn’t recognise the level of risk to a little boy’s health from the mould in the family’s home. We allowed a legal disrepair process, widely used in the housing sector, to get in the way of promptly tackling the mould.
“We must make sure this can never happen again.”
Anyone with any concerns about the environmental impact of the state of their premises or who wishes to improve their indoor air quality, should get in touch with us for an initial discussion about the services we provide.