Fears for kids as mould takes hold
Christchurch family plagued by illness as toxin invades their state house
AChristchurch father who lost a baby son in the February 2011 earthquake fears that black mould in his Housing New Zealand house is harming his children’s health.
Since Grant Smith’s 8-month-old Jayden Harris died when a television fell on him during the quake, his family has been moved around three Housing NZ properties.
For the last four years, Smith’s family-of-seven has lived in a threebedroom house in the eastern suburb of Aranui.
But Smith is concerned that toxic black mould ( Stachybotrys chartarum) growing on the walls of the state-owned house, including in bedrooms and the lounge, is affecting the health of his five children.
His concerns appear to be supported by his family GP who, after seeing 2-year-old Benjamin Smith, wrote a letter saying: “This lad and the family should not be living in their current house because of mould. Help in finding a suitable house is appreciated.”
Smith and his partner Linda Philip are unhappy with Housing NZ’s response to their concern.
An offer to attempt to clean the greenish-black fungi has been rejected by the Smiths. They just want out. “The kids are constantly sick,” said 36-year-old yardman Smith.
“We’ve had nothing but bad luck with this house.”
The children — Stephanie, 9, Vanessa, 8, Latesha, 7, Jennifer, 4, and 2-year-old Benjamin — are repeatedly ill with colds, flus, ear infections and skin irritations, Smith says. His daughters suffer from febrile convulsions when under the weather. Smith, who has his late son Jayden’s name and date of birth tattooed on his right arm and initials on his neck, is terrified of losing another child. “We need to get out of this house. We just want the best for our kids,” he said. Housing NZ inspects all of its properties at least twice a year. Area manager Fraser Benson said staff gained access to the house in late July after Smith cancelled several earlier appointments.
“This inspection noted the inside of the house was not very clean and cluttered with various possessions — both factors which can contribute to mould,” Benson said.
“Our staff noted mould in one bedroom and immediately logged a job so this could be addressed.” But Smith was not at home for contractors and doesn’t believe the problem can be fixed. The lack of cooperation is “frustrating and confusing” for Benson. “Our staff have previously given Mr Smith some helpful tips and advice on how to deal with this. He was also advised on the best way to ventilate the property and to de-clutter his house,” Benson said.
HWatch the video at nzherald.co.nz
Grant Smith, with 4-year-old daughter Jennifer and partner Linda Philip, want out of their mould-ridden house.