Fears for kids as mould takes hold

Christchurch fam­ily plagued by ill­ness as toxin in­vades their state house

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Kurt Bayer

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

Pic­tures / Kurt Bayer

Grant Smith, with 4-year-old daugh­ter Jen­nifer and part­ner Linda Philip, want out of their mould-rid­den house.

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