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The dangers of black mould
The tragic death of two year old Awaab Ishak has focused attention on the state of housing in England.
What happened to Awaab?
Awaab died from a respiratory illness. The coroner that looked into the details of Awaab's death, ruled that his death was:
'... caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment. Action to treat and prevent the mould was not taken.'
Awaab's parents explained that they had made multiple complaints to their housing provider about the thick black mould which covered the kitchen and bathroom ceilings and had asked to be rehomed. Sadly, no action was taken.
After his death, fungus was found in Awaab's blood and lungs and his throat and windpipe were inflamed and swollen, all most likely due to exposure to black mould in his immediate home environment.
What is black mould?
When homes are poorly ventilated, or have issues with damp, black mould, which is a type of microscopic fungus, can grow. If action is not taken - for example to improve ventilation, resolve the damp issues and remove the mould - it will continue to grow.
Fungus such as black mould release spores - the one cell reproductive unit of fungus - which when touched or breathed in can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, coughing and a runny nose. This may happen even in those without a history of respiratory illness such as asthma. However, for those that are already vulnerable - the very young, the elderly those with weakened immune systems or pre-existing respiratory disease - the effects can be devastating.
It is estimated that 2.2 million homes in England have what is known as a Category 1 hazard, meaning the conditions of the home present the highest risk of serious harm or death. Many of the people living in these sub-standard or dangerous housing conditions are already at risk of health inequality due to life circumstances - poverty, disability, single parents, unemployed, refugees.
What does Awaab Ishak's death tell us about England's housing?
Mould at home: How dangerous is it and what can be done?
Awaab Ishak Inquest: Prolonged Exposure to Mould Led to Death