Toddler Died Because of Mould-Infested Flat That Was 'Unfit For Humans'

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Awaab Ishak died shortly after his second birthday from a respiratory problem caused by his damp living conditions, coroner rules

A two-year-old boy died as a result of mould in his home that was ‘unfit for human habitation’, a coroner has ruled.

Awaab Ishak developed a severe respiratory condition in December 2020 and died in hospital a few days before Christmas.

A post-mortem examination found traces of fungus in his blood and lungs and experts believe he may have suffered an allergic reaction to it which caused his throat and windpipe to swell.

A coroner’s court heard that there was “extensive” mould on the walls and ceilings of his home owned and managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing  that had been there for a “considerable time”.

Coroner Joann Kearsley said Awaab’s death was “caused due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment. Action to treat and prevent the mould was not taken.”

The inquest heard Awaab’s father, Faisal Abdullah, came to the UK as an asylum seeker from Sudan in July 2015.

His wife Aisha Amin joined him in 2018 and Awaab was born shortly after.

He suffered colds and respiratory infections as a baby but was otherwise healthy and professionals described him as a “happy, smiley” boy.

Between 2018 to 2019, Mr Abdullah made complaints about the amount of thick black mould in the kitchen and bathroom of their home in Rochdale and requested re-housing.

Giving evidence, his wife told the court: “When anyone came to the flat they said it was disgusting and I felt sad about it. I would rather visit my friends than have people visit the flat.”

Daniel McVey, a surveyor at Rochdale Council, said it was “unfit for human habitation”.

Following Awaab’s death, Greater Manchester Police launched an investigation and found other properties on Rochdale’s Freehold estate to be suffering problems with mould and damp.

But the inquest hear evidence did not meet the threshold for criminal proceedings against the housing association.

Coroner Mrs Kearsley said there were wider lessons to be learned about Awaab’s death.

“I’m sure I am not alone in asking how does this happen,” she said.

“How in the UK does a two-year-old child die from exposure to mould in his home?

“The evidence from this inquest quite clearly showed that this issue is not simply a Rochdale problem. Nor is damp and mould simply a social housing problem.”

Addressing the toddler’s parents, Ms Kearsley said: “I hope you know that Awaab will, I am sure, make a difference for other people.”

In her findings, the coroner described Awaab as “an engaging, lively, endearing two-year-old”.

She said Mr Abdullah first reported mould developing in the Tweedale Street flat to RBH in 2017 and was told to paint over it.

In June 2020, Mr Abdullah instructed solicitors and initiated a claim over the recurring issue but policy meant any repairs would not be done until an agreement had been reached, the inquest heard.

A health visitor also contacted RBH to raise the issue in July 2020 and an inspection that month found mould in the kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom cupboard needed treatment.

Ms Kearsley said the mould was due to “normal daily living activities” and a lack of effective ventilation.

She said: “I find as a matter of fact that no action was taken and, from July 2020 until December 2020, Awaab continued to have chronic exposure to harmful mould.”

Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on December 19 with shortness of breath and transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged, the court heard.

The coroner said the family should have been told to call an ambulance or take him directly to Royal Oldham Hospital if he had further difficulties.

Awaab deteriorated the next day and his parents were advised by the Community Children’s Nursing Team to take him back to the Rochdale Urgent Care Centre.

He went into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest while being transferred to Oldham, the inquest heard.

He died after arriving at Oldham.

Ms Kearsley said she will be writing a report for the prevention of future death's and will write to the minister for Housing, and Health Secretary Steve Barclay, to raise issues.