How Dangerous Is Mould To Your Family?

By   /   June 12, 2015  /   63 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

We have a right to an honest appraisal of mould from our health authorities; this means an honest attempt for them to make homes safe and published information on how to use our own resources to best protect our families

unnamed-1

The answer is, very dangerous. Families across New Zealand have been reeling this week after hearing about little Emma-Lita Bourne. Emma-Lita died at Starship Hospital last year at the age of two. In the week before her death she was otherwise seemingly happy, healthy and going to kindy each day. She was loved very dearly by her mumma Latisha. Latisha’s little girl went from having a runny nose to having diarrhoea, vomiting blood, seizing and dying all in under 48 hours. The coroner’s report states that the conditions of the home likely contributed to Emma-Lita developing a bacterial abscess in her lungs that killed her over a shockingly brief period; her life was ended by a brain bleed. When she died her mum was at the same time dealing with the fact that one of her other children had rheumatic fever.  As a parent of a 2 year old in a house that is covered externally in black mould which has had a significant negative impact on our health – mould we battle daily to eliminate – I could not help but be moved to tears for Emma-Lita’s mum Latisha. What she went through is a kind of suffering no parent should ever have to endure, what’s worse Emma-Lita’s death was entirely preventable. She’d informed housing New Zealand of the problems with the house and they essentially ignored her.

The report mentions nothing about mould, however mum Latisha said “there was mould on the walls and floor.” What is interesting is the World Health Organisation (WHO) specifically mentions a pneumonia-like illness and brain-bleeds as being a particular condition that arises from mould exposure along with a huge host of terrifying health complaints. The WHO also states that children are particularly susceptible to mould and its effects due to the way mould specifically attacks rapidly growing lung tissue. I cannot say that mould specifically killed Emma-Lita, as it was likely a combination of factors that made the house a hazard for a little person; however we have to look at the impact of mould and decide – when will mould be taken seriously? You see the thing about mould is, it’s an almost untouchable topic here and overseas. Mould was the cause of billion dollar lawsuits in the US and has become a heavily politicised issue since the leaky homes crisis that cost the industry in New Zealand about 11 billion dollars.

What is alarming is the degree to which the government and associated authorities downplay the significance of “mixed mould” exposure. When authorities talk about homes, they mainly talk about moisture – not mould. If they do approach mould they say things like “mould causes asthma, respiratory issues and occasionally other things.” Mould is painted as an irritant and little more. This is terribly misleading according to recent studies and educational material produced by the World Health Organisation. Most parents who see mould in their homes would be shocked to know that mycotoxins are so dangerous they can be refined and used as chemical warfare agents.

This is what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has to say on mould in literature produced to educate health professionals on the poorly understood issue of mycotoxins (the toxins produced by various moulds):

“Disease associated with exposure to mycotoxins is known as the “Great Masquerader” of the 21st century because of its complex natural history involving different tissues and resembling different diseases at each stage in its evolution. It can present with a variety of nonspecific clinical signs and symptoms such as rash, conjunctivitis, epistaxis, apnea, cough, wheezing, nausea, and vomiting. Some cases of vomiting illness, bone marrow failure, acute pulmonary hemorrhage, and recurrent apnea and/or “pneumonia” are associated with exposure to mycotoxins. Familiarity with the symptoms of exposure to the major classes of mycotoxins enables the clinician to ask pertinent questions about possible fungal exposures and to remove the infant or child from the source of exposure, which could be contaminated food(s), clothing and furniture, or the indoor air of the home. Failure to prevent recurrent exposure often results in recurrent illness. A variety of other conditions, including hepatocellular and esophageal cancer and neural tube defects, are associated with consumption of foods contaminated with mycotoxins. Awareness of the short- and long-term consequences of exposures to these natural toxins helps pediatricians to serve as better advocates for children and families. (Etzel RA).”3

It’s an interesting read and one I encourage every parent to look at, especially as winter takes hold.

Registered Nurse Michael Brenndorfer says: “I see so many little ones coming in to see the doctors because of illnesses of poverty and poor housing. We treat them, stabilise them, and then send them back into the same houses that contributed to their illnesses to begin with. It is heart breaking when we see them back with exactly the same problems, because we can’t write a prescription for better housing.”

And that’s not all, mould exposure was shown to triple the risk of low IQ in Polish children and it’s not just kids at risk; adults are also at risk from mould. Multiple studies have shown adults exhibited cognitive impairment in “multiple domains” that was similar to a “mild traumatic brain injury” along with depression. A study published by the Archives of Environmental Health concluded that exposure to moulds in water-damaged buildings increased the risk for development of neural autoantibodies, peripheral neuropathy, and neurophysiologic abnormalities in exposed individuals. Another study linking mould exposure and health showed impairment in susceptible individuals, including deficits in visiospacial learning, visiospacial memory, verbal learning and psychomotor speed, along with depression. Given this it is no surprise that mould exposure has been linked to developmental defects of babies while in utero; let’s not forget the risk of death.

The government have an obligation to adequately inform and educate the public based on information provided by the WHO, so that we can help ourselves. We have a right to an honest appraisal of mould from our health authorities; this means an honest attempt for them to make homes safe and published information on how to use our own resources to best protect our families. Education on this issue also helps us safeguard our own homes through our own efforts as well along with theirs, without access to this information, children remain at risk.

Whilst mould is a complicated scientific issue, it is clear a causal relationship can be established. Mould arrives in your body through various means, there is a certain amount on your food and will be a certain amount around your home at all times – normally it is not troubling – but when it overgrows it can cause a variety of health concerns. When it overgrows in an indoor environment you are not just breathing it, you’re eating it and drinking it too; it’s not usually an issue if you’re exposed to it once – the issue is exposure to a certain amount of mycotoxins over time that poses the most risk to health, along with other factors that support your susceptibility. What is even more irresponsible and shocking is that the National government claims climate change could offer some “benefits” to homes by making them “warmer” – which is a profoundly disturbing untruth. What they are intentionally ignoring is that the WHO claims climate change is going to be a big, upcoming risk to the health of children.  In this regard climate change will foster conditions that result in overgrowth of mould in domestic homes and also in food crops worldwide. Mould will come to be a major expense to international food producers and specifically in the housing domain. The issue of mould on food crops has been well studied by academics.

There is a growing body of evidence stacking up against mould – particularly the black stuff that covers almost all of our homes in winter. Why won’t the government and associated agencies discuss mould transparently and why do their websites downplay the impact of mould? To understand why we have to look at the last decade of political activity on the topic:

The politics of mould issue is an enormous national and international issue and one that will become increasingly problematic if the World Health Organisation is correct about the climate change link. You see, mould has a massive cost to clean up and manage. It was the focus of billion dollar law suits in the US and huge law suits here because of the leaky building scandal. What happened was the building industry started using materials – such as glues – that provided ‘food’ for moulds to grow and this resulted in big-money law suits because of how many new buildings were subsequently destroyed. There were so many in fact that in the US in 2008 there was an attempt to prove that a causal relationship between mould and ill health could not be established.

Wall Street Journal reports:

“Four years ago, a key appellate court decision in Manhattan blocked millions of dollars in legal claims for damages for health effects of mold in buildings, saying that the scientific evidence that mold caused illness was in dispute. But a few weeks ago that conclusion was overturned by a split 3-2 decision by another five-judge panel in the same court that found that the scientific literature was now “indicative of a causal relationship.”

For a moment there in the US, the ability to be able to connect health issues and mould was almost blocked in order to diminish the impact of lawsuits. Thankfully this was overturned; however preventing legal action likely remains one of the biggest focuses of New Zealand’s building industry.

Level – an organisation in New Zealand developed by BRANZ group – is owned and directed by New Zealand’s building and construction industry. When Level instructs the industry on dealing with mould it is treated like a highly contaminated and dangerous area, and this is presumably to avoid dealing with employee lawsuits, pay-out recuperation by ACC and in order to ensure buildings are not overtaken by the stuff. What struck me was reading just how much effort goes into the personal protection of staff dealing with what Level call a “small area of mould.” Level absolutely know how dangerous it is. Landcare Research, the New Zealand Housing Commission and the Ministry of Health would have us believe that this stuff is low-key health risk to families living in it and our government expects people to live, sleep, breathe and eat in these homes.

But take a moment to read Level’s recommendations for ‘removing and cleaning up procedures for toxic moulds’:

  • When toxic mould is found, it usually affects a significant area of the building and employing a specialist contractor to carry out the removal is recommended.
  • For small areas, the mould may be removed provided the workers undertaking the removal follow these procedures:
  • Seal off the space from other parts of the building by taping up all openings.
  • Wear a respirator with a P1 filter (minimum protection).
  • Wear protective clothing that is disposable or easily washable.
  • Remove any materials from which the mould cannot be removed such as wallpaper, timber products, ceiling tiles, gypsum board, carpet, drapes and furniture (carpet that is contaminated may be difficult to clean completely).
  • Place removed materials in plastic bags that can be sealed.
  • For materials such as glass, plastic and metal from which the mould can be removed completely, clean the affected area using hot water and chlorine bleach, then rinse and allow to dry completely.
  • Use a stiff brush on rough or uneven surfaces.
  • On completion, thoroughly vacuum all surfaces of the sealed area using a vacuum with a fine particulate (HEPA) filter. Once this is done, the room seals can be removed.”

I realise that there are a huge amount of reasons the building industry have in order to keep new buildings free of mould, but a significant amount of this expensive and time-consuming effort is dedicated to protecting employees from mould that produces toxins. If you consider just how much money the building industry spend getting rid of this stuff, and how much money was tied up in the international legal actions on the issue of mould, it shows what a dangerous and expensive scourge it is, and the associated cost is one big motivation for all government agencies to avoid real-talk about mould.

Little Emma-Lita is far from the first precious child to die in New Zealand and this is far from the first time Housing New Zealand  have been obtuse, indolent and almost totally denied any responsibility they have when it comes to mould. There are numerous media reports that I have linked to below, in fact, this issue has been ongoing. If they start taking responsibility they could have a hell of a costly issue on their hands. I mean, we live in a country where 2/3rds of the houses were built before 1977 when there was no requirement for insulation.

If the government remains inactive then we have to work together to ensure this doesn’t happen again. It’s time to start sharing our stories about mould. We need to make the connection between mould and health and take action, and we have to take on board the advice of international agencies such as the WHO. So I say, document your mould, document your family health, share your stories about mould in the comments or even start a community or street-based mould action group. If lawsuits are what the government and organisations fear the most – and the only thing determining their participation – we need to make them participate by demonstrating they do have a responsibility to people in government homes; we have to make them realise we have a right to proper public education on how to mitigate one of the big dangers of the household environment.

I think prosecution by community action groups is exactly what is needed, because whipping vulnerable people into a warm home after their child has died is nothing but a sickening bribe of silence. The government knows those houses are dangerous. They don’t care because of who it affects – poor people, brown people – and if they won’t care, we need to make them care.
Take action:

  • Spread the word
  • Start a mould action group. Document your mould. Document your health issues
  • Write to your MP, tell your friends, blog about it, make a noise
  • Hold a community meeting, make contact with other communities
  • Find out about taking legal action
  • Have a community mould and dampness task force, pool resources, work on each other’s houses to fix the issues as best you can, first-thing’s-first, correct or remove structures that are causing wetness. Try to keep your home over 18 degrees and if lots of people have to sleep together in a room try to keep it both warm and ventilated (many people in a room will increase the condensation and moisture). In coming days I will post a second bog with links and practical information on things you can do to keep your family safe. Share information with your neighbours about mould control and the impact on health. Be wary of weird smells, check carpet, wooden structures, ceilings, furniture and more.
  • Hold Housing New Zealand and the government to account for repairs
  • Hold Housing New Zealand and the government accountable to educate and inform everyone on the major dangers of mycotoxins and bad housing
  • Demand cheaper electricity. If families have to spend up to $80 a week to be dry in winter this high cost disproportionately effects low-income families
  • Support Phil Twyford’s Health Homes Guarantee Bill (this is like a Warrant of Fitness for homes). You can sign the petition here

Bill English is against the idea. If you want to know who didn’t vote for the Healthy Homes Guarantee and who to personally email, have a read. Listed here are all of the MPs who voted against making homes safer for children. I’ve included a list of their email addresses here so you can copy-paste that into an email and tell them exactly what you think about the issue of mould:

amy.adams@parliament.govt.nz;

kanwaljit.singh.bakshi@parliament.govt.nz;

todd.barclay@parliament.govt.nz;

maggie.barry@parliament.govt.nz;

andrew.bayly@parliament.govt.nz;

david.bennett@parliament.govt.nz;

paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz;

chris.bishop@parliament.govt.nz;

chester.borrows@parliament.govt.nz;

simon.bridges@parliament.govt.nz;

gerry.brownlee@parliament.govt.nz;

david.carter@parliament.govt.nz;

jonathan.coleman@parliament.govt.nz;

judith.collins@parliament.govt.nz;

jacqui.dean@parliament.govt.nz;

matt.doocey@parliament.govt.nz;

sarah.dowie@parliament.govt.nz;

bill.english@parliament.govt.nz;

christopher.finlayson@parliament.govt.nz;

craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz;

paul.foster-bell@parliament.govt.nz;

paul.goldsmith@parliament.govt.nz;

jo.goodhew@parliament.govt.nz;

tim.groser@parliament.govt.nz;

nathan.guy@parliament.govt.nz;

joanne.hayes@parliament.govt.nz;

brett.hudson@parliament.govt.nz;

steven.joyce@parliament.govt.nz;

nikki.kaye@parliament.govt.nz;

john.key@parliament.govt.nz;

nuk.korako@parliament.govt.nz;

barbara.kuriger@parliament.govt.nz;

melissa.lee@parliament.govt.nz;

peseta.sam.lotu-iiga@parliament.govt.nz;

tim.macindoe@parliament.govt.nz;

todd.mcclay@parliament.govt.nz;

murray.mccully@parliament.govt.nz;

ian.mckelvie@parliament.govt.nz;

mark.mitchell@parliament.govt.nz;

todd.muller@parliament.govt.nz;

jono.naylor@parliament.govt.nz;

alfred.ngaro@parliament.govt.nz;

simon.oconnor@parliament.govt.nz;

hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz;

parmjeet.parmar@parliament.govt.nz;

shane.reti@parliament.govt.nz;

jami-lee.ross@parliament.govt.nz;

alastair.scott@parliament.govt.nz;

scott.simpson@parliament.govt.nz;

nick.smith@parliament.govt.nz;

stuart.smith@parliament.govt.nz;

lindsay.tisch@parliament.govt.nz;

anne.tolley@parliament.govt.nz;

louise.upston@parliament.govt.nz;

nicky.wagner@parliament.govt.nz;

maurice.williamson@parliament.govt.nz;

michael.woodhouse@parliament.govt.nz;

jian.yang@parliament.govt.nz;

jonathan.young@parliament.govt.nz;

david.seymour@act.org.nz

If that doesn’t work Family First have created a handy page you can use!

In response to Emma-Lita’s death National has said they’ll make sure homes are a bit better, but so far they haven’t bothered to keep Housing New Zealand in line despite all of the previous issues so the issue of faith in the government is important here. Their response feel like an ongoing attempt to make it appear like they’re doing something when they are not committed enough. They’ve rejected attempts at making homes healthier by the Greens and Labour, and without a lot of public pressure I have little faith that we’ll get the kind of support our communities need because of the associated cost. This just feels like another tactic from National who have continually denied to admit the size of the problem. A bit of insulation is not gonna cut it. The New Zealand government needs to start talking frankly about the impact of mould and to ensure that all health providers understand the consequences of mould on family health. Mould is something doctors, midwives and nurses should be asking about; it’s something we should all be looking out for. We are a country particularly prone to mould and we should take our cues from the WHO.

 

 

Other reading:

An Invercargill mum in a toxic Housing New Zealand Home:
http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/mother-upset-housing-nz-leaves-family-in-mouldy-leaky-home-5506775

Another family in a Housing New Zealand house dealing with toxic mould:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/7412240/Family-to-move-from-toxic-house

Damp Homes & Dodgy Landlords:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/67798024/Forgotten-law-puts-squeeze-on-damp-homes-and-dodgy-landlords

Kids forced to learn in mouldy classrooms:

http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/kids-forced-to-learn-in-mouldy-classrooms-2015060810#axzz3cQHOKmVW

Both Housing New Zealand refuses to acknowledge the impact of mould, the Ministry of Health downplays the risk:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8913678/Mould-in-house-may-affect-young-kids

Housing New Zealand ignores and denies the significance of mould, Landcare Research downplays the impact of mould:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8885586/HNZ-sat-on-details-of-dangerous-spores

“2013 Landcare Research mould specialist Eric McKenzie said black mould had been linked to the deaths of some babies in the United States about 20 years ago.

While there was little evidence to support this, “there’s probably some truth to the sickness attributed to it”, he said.”

That is a very casual response given the amount of available evidence in 2013 around the impact of mycotoxins in homes. The WHO produced their report in 2011 and one of our foremost advisors on the issue is somehow ignorant of their concerns? Why is the Landcare Research mould specialist downplaying the risk?

Housing New Zealand sat on details of dangerous spores:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8885586/HNZ-sat-on-details-of-dangerous-spores
References:

Baldo, J., Ahmad, L., & Ruff, R. (2002). Neuropsychological performance of patients following mold exposure. Applied Neuropsychology, 9(4), 193-202. doi: 10.1207/S15324826AN0904_1

 

Campbell, A., Thrasher, J., Madison, R., Vojdani, A., Gray, M., & Johnson, A. (2003). Neural autoantibodies and neurophysiologic abnormalities in patients exposed to molds in water-damaged buildings. Archives of Environmental Health, 58(8), 464-474. doi: 10.3200/AEOH.58.8.464-474

 

Crago, B., Gray, M., Nelson, L., Davis, M., Arnold, L., & Thrasher, J. (2003). Psychological, neuropsychological, and electrocortical effects of mixed mold exposure. Archives of Environmental Health, 58(8), 452-463. doi: 10.3200/AEOH.58.8.452-463

 

Etzel, R. A. (2006). What the primary care pediatrician should know about syndromes associated with exposures to mycotoxins. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 36(8), 282-305. doi: 10.1016/j.cppeds.2006.05.003

 

Gordon, W., Cantor, J., Johanning, E., Charatz, J., Ashman, T., Breeze, J., …Abramowitz.S. (2004). Cognitive impairment associated with toxigenic fungal exposure; a replication and extension of previous findings. Applied Neuropsychology, 11(2), 65-74. doi: 10.1207/s15324826an1102_1

 

Kelman, B., Robbins, C., Swenson, L., & Hardin, B. (2004). Risk from inhaled mycotoxins in indoor office and residential environments. International Journal of Toxicology,  23(1), 3-10. doi: 10.1080/10915810490265423

 

Rankine, J. (2005). Housing and health in Auckland.  Retrieved from Auckland Regional Public Health Service website: http://www.arphs.govt.nz/Portals/0/Health%20Information/HealthyEnvironments/HealthyHousing/HealthyHousing-FullReport2004.pdf

 

World Health Organisation. (2011). Mycotoxins: Children’s health and the environment. World Health Organisation training package for the health sector [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from www.who.int/ceh/capacity/mycotoxins.pdf

 

***
Want to support this work? Donate today
***
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook
***

63 Comments

  1. phillip ure says:

    an aspect of this whole problem that i have not seen mentioned anywhere –

    (and deserves some questions in parliament – i wd submit)..

    – and what is a key factor in why housing nz houses that have been insulated – are still so cold –

    is that one of the pillars of successful insulation is the sealing of the ground under the house with a heavy-duty plastic-sheeting – with the aim of keeping the cold from the ground/earth from seeping into the house..(makes sense..eh..?)

    the problem is that this plastic-sheeting-barrier has not been done in the housing new zealand insulation-scheme..(i understand this was decided on the basis of cost..?..no plastic-sheeting = cheaper unit-cost..and if this is correct – this surely must set a new benchmark in short-trem-thinking..eh..?..)

    so..the houses are still freezing – in part – because the cold from the ground just goes straight up into the house..

    ..a person with expertise in this area – and aware of the contract terms/no groundsheet in hnz-houses – shook his head in disbelief when he was telling me about it..

    ..saying that without that ground-sheet – the whole exercise had become a sick-joke..

    so..putting that clusterf*ck to one side – an obvious/immediate-solution must be to revisit those already (faux)-insulated state-homes..

    ..and lay/fix that bloody sheeting..eh..?

    ..time to call time on this sick-joke being played on those in poverty – by these cynical/hand-wring-politicians..

    • Jessie Hume says:

      Thank you very much for this, I have a few more blogs to write on this issue and I will look into this, along with any other aspects that people care to share. Much appreciated, Phillip.

      • phillip ure says:

        yr welcome jessie..

        btw – that is a fine/well-researched piece of work – that article/post of yrs..

        (i will link to it tomorrow.)

        and i used yr mps’ email list to fire off a copy of my comment to all of them..(heh..!..)..hopefully it will cause some consternation/questions to be asked.

        i look forward to reading future work/writings by/from you..

    • bad12 says:

      Living in ‘the Mansion’, a 1940’s State House, i can answer that one for you Phillip,

      As far as many of them go, State Houses that is, many of them are judged to be too low to the ground for such plastic sheeting to be applied,

      At the time of the re-insulation of ‘the Mansion’, she now having two layers of insulation in the ceiling, the person doing the work,(i would suggest not having a hell of a lot of previous experience) cut the floors in the downstairs bedroom wardrobes to create a manhole with a view to insulating the under-floor cavity,

      At this point a decision was made that the ‘crawl space’ was not sufficient to be able to do such work,(i have since tiled all of the closets with vinyl tiles to cover the saw cuts to stop more cold air pouring in,

      The parts of the basement that could be reached have had ‘some’ plastic sheeting stapled to the underfloor as insulation, and, i have added plastic sheeting, cut open plastic rubbish sacks in layers, to the soil,(after first removing all the mud and using my nut to stop a good amount of the water pouring into the basement during Winter),

      Interestingly,(or not), in the latest HousingNZ newsletter sent out to tenants they advise tenants to install plastic sheeting themselves to bare earth basement cavities,(i sniggered at the naked abdication of responsibility),

      Obviously there is ‘a fix’ to such lack of access to low underfloor areas where a ‘product’,(perhaps minced up car tires), could simply be pumped via pipes in a six inch layer into the underfloor cavity, this would require the removal and replacement of one or more of the usual air vents present in most of these older Homes,

      Such a layer of rubber or plastic would simply settle as a ‘skin’ over the soil allowing moisture, some of which appears under many HousingNZ properties in Winter as a running stream, to move through the soil as it does at present, but, preventing such moisture rising through to the internals of the Home,

      In my view, there are far too many air vents allowing air to circulate under these houses which in Winter promote cold air circulating under the whole of the house, and, in the older stock, which is the majority of the HousingNZ estate, the inevitable movement of buildings over decades provides plenty of scope for gaps to develop and such cold, moisture laden air, to circulate through the internal structure…

      • phillip ure says:

        i also know of hnz houses with easy access – where all has been done except the groundsheet..

        • Sueh says:

          Yes, I can attest to that….my unit is like that…insulated in the ceiling, insulated under the floor, no plastic sheeting and so very many of the vents. I will add, the only reason the insulation in the ceiling and under the floor is there is that this was a pair of privately owned units the HNZ bought approx 4 1/2 years ago and the vendor had to do all this before HNZ would complete the purchase. Rather ironic I thought….make others do it, but don’t do it themselves.

      • wild katipo says:

        Well BAD12….as I was reading through your comments before I reached the point of pumping in material- that was the first solution I thought of.

        When I was working in a maintenance and construction crew on the Waitakere dams…we often had to pump grout into fissures to shore up some of the concrete of the older dams…and we did a lot of that type and related work.

        Also….there are many modern products that are acrylic based that are designed to expand to fill gaps in the building /renovation industry.

        It would strike me that in the Scandinavian country’s they already would have knowledge of products used in a similar vein for insulation purposes.

        Houses designated for this treatment could be serviced by small teams with a product that limits gross expansion yet chemically bonds forming a low rising coverage.

        Mirrors and cameras such as pipe and drain-layers use could be deployed to ascertain full effective coverage based on a realistic percentage per square meter . As could a camera overview for ‘ certification of job completion ‘ purposes.

        If this country is serious about remedying this appalling situation…such measures – or similar could be undertaken. That ,- juxtaposed by the cost of annual national health bills and what it is currently costing us over decades ( not to mention the costs of heating using electricity ) – rather than just the short sharp cost of undertaking these measures over several years.

    • aa says:

      Polythene ground membranes are not about preventing ‘cold’ – it’s to prevent rising damp (moisture released by the ground). The NZBC requires subfloor ventilation so that damp air is ventilated out from under houses. Vents are commonly blocked (by gardens etc.). Polythene laid on ground stops rising damp where ventilation not adequate.

      http://www.buildmagazine.org.nz/assets/PDF/B96-34-SubfloorVent.pdf

      • Booker says:

        It’s not quite so simple as just putting it down or not out of laziness/cost – building regulations state that it should only be used where there it no risk of water pooling on top of the polythene and remaining under the house – i.e. the ground under the house either has to be convex – highest at the centre of the house, or sloping downhill across the house or similar. I’ve just insulated the underfloor of my house and its the opposite – the centre of the house is the lowest point of the ground, so no polythene.

        As stated above, the polythene is there just to prevent moisture rising out of the ground and into the house above, but it depends on how damp the subfloor gets, how many subfloor vents, and how high the floor is from the ground as to how much of that moisture makes it into the house.

        One of the real issues with housing insulation scheme is that it only does ceiling and underfloor – it does this because these really are the easiest places to insulate (at least, if the subfloor is accessible). But there’s good research from Building Research Association New Zealand and others that after doing the ceiling, insulation in the walls is the thing that really makes a difference for raising the indoor air temperature (not surprising since heat rises and once its stopped from leaving the ceiling, it just goes out the wall).

        One of the key things which kick started the whole insulation scheme was research from Philippa Howden-Chapman et al in the British Medical Journal (http://www.bmj.com/content/334/7591/460.long) which showed that insulating houses produced such gains in health that the entire cost of insulating was regained through health benefits. And the odds of mould in the house were about a quarter after insulating.

        The thing is, the current insulation scheme is a joke really. I’ve got an old villa which had zero insulation in it when I first got it. I’ve done what I can to get it up to current standards. But here’s the thing – any able bodied person can put insulation in a ceiling or under a floor. It’s great there’s a scheme which helps old ladies and disabled people insulate their homes, don’t get me wrong, but for me the cheapest way of insulating my house was to go to Mitre10/Bunnings, pay full cost price and do it myself – in other words, for most NZers, there is no subsidy scheme; and it’s not just Housing NZ houses that have problems with no insulation, it’s across the board. If the government took this seriously this could be remedied within a year, using products made here in NZ too.

  2. dangerousdave says:

    This is a tragedy, but let’s keep the issue in perspective. People have been living in uninsulated houses for eons. If the mother was aware of mould on ceilings and walls, why didn’t she clean it off?

    • Mike the Lefty says:

      If you think it is just a matter of simple hygiene then You have little understanding of how mould and mildew operate, buddy. Once they are well established they are very difficult to get rid of. You can clean, clean and clean until you are as blue in the face as a Ponsonby house speculator, but it always comes back.

      • dangerousdave says:

        “Once they are well established…”

        Indeed. I have lived in many mould susceptible homes. I’e never let the mould get to that point.

        • Mike the Lefty says:

          You forget that tenants change in rental houses. If just one person isn’t meticulous enough, the damage can be done and then no matter how clean the next tenants are, there will always be a recurring problem. Is it fair to blame the tenants down the line for a former tenant’s laxity?

          • dangerousdave says:

            No, but that doesn’t excuse the current tenant doing nothing. She has lived in the property since 2007, 8 years! Why is she having children if her accommodation is unsafe? And I would remind you of Jessie’s own words from her article “The report mentions nothing about mould,”. Nothing. There may well be rental homes out there that need attention and some form of regulating, but i’m looking at this story and thinking ‘beat up’.

            • Mike the Lefty says:

              You assume she has done nothing. You seem to have an ideological low opinion of people less fortunate than you. Sounds a lot like the kind of people we have in government at the moment.

        • risildowgtn says:

          so you’d crawl under a house where its wet and rotting to clean the black mould up..

          or crawl inside a wall ?

          Please show us how this is done .. so not to cause any damage…. and get rid of the black mould inside the walls cos the house is damp..

          fuk youre an even bigger idiot than i thought…

          • dangerousdave says:

            What black mould? How do you know Mrs Bourne had black mould?

            • What black mould? How do you know Mrs Bourne had black mould?

              Because Mrs Bourne had revealed that to be the case, Dave;

              Latisha Bourne said there was mould on the walls and floors and a cold draught in the room where her now-dead daughter Emma-Lita Bourne slept.

              Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/69095130/damp-state-house-played-part-in-toddlers-death

              Perhaps if you were more concerned about the actual delapidated state of Housing NZ homes rather than trying to pick holes in peoples’ stories, you might actually get somewhere.

              The only thing that comes through in your comments is (a) denial (b) supporting National and (c) ignoring the situation may families are living in.

              How’s your home, Dave? Nice, dry, and warm?

              Good for you.

              Let’s try empathy next, shall we?

    • Jessie Hume says:

      Hi Dave,

      That’s an odd response? Especially given the myriad of links supplied that explain and describe the kind of mould I am talking about?

      The kind of mould that exists in houses where there are structural issues such as a leak in the ceiling – like there was in Emma-Litas house – is far more prolific than able to be contained with a bit of a wipe. Have you seen a proper mouldy home?

      When it takes lives it is usually contaminating the structures of the house, it is behind wallpaper and in the ceiling and gib and this is typically related to structural issues in the home. It may have a portion visible on the walls and floor but wiping this away does little when it is part of the physical structures of the house and builders and contamination procedures are required.

      One of the biggest problems is making mould a joint responsibility of the home owner and landlord without a clear delineation on which aspects are whose responsibility. If a tenant has to spend say – an extra $50 per week on heating and dehumidifying and another $10 per fortnight on products to clean the house – while fundamentally contaminated structures remain this puts a disproportionate level of financial responsibility on the tenant who is struggling to manage a contaminated home. Homes like that cannot be made safe without changes to the building itself and this is where Housing New Zealand is taking advantage of an obscure guideline. HNZ tenants get supplied heaters and the National government say “another $25 per week should cut it”. No, another $25 per week does not mitigate the costs involved – it doesn’t mitigate the costs of drying and warming homes, it doesn’t mitigate the cost of structural changes required and it doesn’t mitigate medical costs.

      Landlords and home owners and in this case Housing New Zealand – who appears to be one of the worst landlords – need to take responsibility for dangerous homes.

      • dangerousdave says:

        “Have you seen a proper mouldy home?”

        Yes, I have. I am all in favour of landlords being held accountable for the condition of their houses, but I’ve never come across any form of mould that can’t be kept at bay with some effort. If my children’s health depended on it, I’d make sure the house was mould free. I’d also make sure I dealt to the cockroaches. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/otara-state-houses-damp-full-cockroaches-but-govt-defends-hnz-after-death-6330925.

        • Jessie Hume says:

          Your response demonstrates that you have not seen a proper mouldy home and are not even factoring in what is involved when there are issues such as leaky buildings.

          Changes of tenants doesn’t mean a landlord can shirk the responsibility of creating a safe house and carrying out normal amounts of routine repairs, bad situations occur when houses are left for too long and tenants are informing HNZ, the owners of the property, of these necessary repairs and they’re being ignored. If there is a leak in the ceiling no amount of general cleaning will help the core issue, the mould will overgrow, the temperature will remain low, the moisture levels will be high and poor health will result. You might be able reduce the impact on your health – at best – at worst it will make no difference to your health because the issue is an infestation.

          The same example applies to my house, the guttering is leaking, I can clean all I like but until the guttering is repaired the issue will persist and be something that will require great expense and time to battle – shirking the responsibility to repair structures shifts an unfair amount of personal cost and time onto the tenant trying to battle the situation when a repair will fix the situation.

          Any practical handy-person or builder knows structural repairs must occur first, otherwise people are dropping unending amounts of time and energy into a problem that simply cannot be solved.

          • dangerousdave says:

            “Your response demonstrates that you have not seen a proper mouldy home and are not even factoring in what is involved when there are issues such as leaky buildings. ”

            You are quite wrong. I have seen severely weather effected homes. As a landlord and tenant in past lives I would never rent out a damp house and I would never allow my family to live in one.

            Mrs Bourne lived in this house for 8 years, and brought at least one child into the world in that time, while it allegedly had problems with mould and cockroaches. Landlords should have to provide homes that are safe and fit for purpose. Tenants should keep them clean, and use the common sense and individual responsibility God gave them.

        • Bad12 says:

          DangerousDave, your queries on this Post, and others i might add are akin to those of the village idiot of yesteryear,

          Black mold which i have plenty of in one bedroom ‘lives’ inside both the wall and roof cavity and is both a fluid, solid and vegetative growth in its various states,

          As a fluid this mold is capable, and does, work its way through joints in gib walls, and, as a fluid i have watched as it has found a weak spot in the gib walling, worked its way through that weak spot, puffed up a hand sized bulge in the wallpaper and used its fluid nature to finally burst through that wallpaper spilling down the internal wall in a long trail,

          Should i leave such a trail of black ink-like mold for a couple of days it will solidify at which point toad-stills will grow from it, should these be left for a few days they will collapse into a pile of black mold-dust as will the trail of previously fluid black mold that spawned them,

          i don’t, leave such mold growths that is, except for the couple of times i have left them to see exactly what would occur, i clean them off as they appear,

          No matter my, or any other tenants cleaning efforts tho, once the mold is present in a roof or wall cavity it is there until such time as the Proper Method of removal is applied,

          The only difference being, visible mold on the buildings internal walls should act as a warning to the Landlord that the building is uninhabitable while invisible mold simply remains as an invisible killer, the ability of such molds to dry out and migrate through joints in the gib walling or any other crack or pin prick hole just as deadly as that which might be visible,

          Repeatedly cleaning such mold is in itself a danger to a tenant, perhaps you believe that HousingNZ tenants in particular are so flush with money that they can afford the necessary breathing apparatus and ladders to allow such molds to be successfully cleaned without creating a danger to their health,

          You are right in saying that NZ homes have for many decades been cold and damp, this would explain why we as a nation have one of the worst rates of Respiratory Disease and rate of hospitalizations for those Respiratory Diseases in the developed world

          • dangerousdave says:

            What does any of that have to do with Mrs Bourne? There is no evidence of black mould in her house, none, zero, nada.

            • Yes there is, Dave;

              Latisha Bourne said there was mould on the walls and floors and a cold draught in the room where her now-dead daughter Emma-Lita Bourne slept.

              Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/69095130/damp-state-house-played-part-in-toddlers-death

              Her neighbours have it as well;

              “The walls cry. What I mean by the walls crying is the condensation actually runs down the walls. If I showed you upstairs, there’s actually mould on my wallpaper.”

              Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/275385/state-house-conditions-shocking,-says-neighbour

              Others have the stuff growing in their homes as well;

              Well, the Tovo family met their side of the bargain. The house I visited was neat and tidy. I could see small traces of mould that the family had regularly wiped away.

              Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/columnists/69338115/Duncan-Garner-Nick-Smith-the-cold-hearted-politician

              Perhaps you should be more concerned about the problem, Dave, rather than trying to pick holes in what people are telling us?

              Or are you so wedded to your political party (National) that you shy away from anything remotely resembling criticism?

              • bad12 says:

                Frank, Dave appears to be ‘an expert’, at pinhead dancing that is,

                A kind person would suggest that his continued picking at the edges of statements made by others has its roots in his own ego and he has absolutely no real concern for the issues raised,

                We do not know what type of mold, dangerous or not was present in the Home of the Bourne’s at the time of baby Emma-Lita’s death because it does not appear to have been tested,

                From television footage of the house there was apparent clumps of grass growing on the roof, such vegetation will and probably did promote the movement of moisture from the outside atmosphere to the interior of the roof cavity,

                Once this has occurred such moisture will ‘travel’ along the timbers of the internal structure spawning mold as it goes,

                Where such mold became most apparent to the naked eye inside the dwelling would simply be the result of such moisture/mold having ‘traveled’ via the timber structure to the internal ceiling material…

          • dangerousdave says:

            “You are right in saying that NZ homes have for many decades been cold and damp, ”

            Where did I say that? I believe I said ‘uninsulated’. I grew up in one in Mt Roskill in the 60’s. I can’t remember suffering too much.

            • I grew up in one in Mt Roskill in the 60’s. I can’t remember suffering too much.

              Because your parents paid the power bill, Dave.

              Power was cheaper in your youth.

              And because your circumstances don’t necessarily reflect those of others. Consider yourself fortunate having been raised in a middle class, white family and suburb.

              • Mike the Lefty says:

                Yes, back in the 60s parents didn’t usually have to weigh the choices between paying the power bill and going hungry or eating and staying cold.

            • Sueh says:

              And not to mention that a house in the 1960s is some fifty years younger, still a relatively new house that would not have the maintenance neglect these current houses are showing. If they have not been maintained properly i.e. leaking roofs then there are going to be further ongoing problems. And also, what Frank said…electricity much cheaper back in those days, too.

        • Lara says:

          So because you haven’t seen it therefore it doesn’t exist?

          Because that’s pretty much what your comment said with “I’ve never come across any form of mould that can’t be kept at bay with some effort”.

          Intellectually a very lazy stance Dave.

          Perhaps some reading of the many scientific studies Jessie has kindly linked to here may educate yourself?

          • dangerousdave says:

            I don’t think you really understand what intellectually lazy means. My statement was one of personal observation. I did look at the studies Jessie cites; I just can’t find any evidence they are relevant to this case. As Jessie said “The report mentions nothing about mould…”

            • I don’t think you really understand what intellectually lazy means. My statement was one of personal observation. I did look at the studies Jessie cites; I just can’t find any evidence they are relevant to this case. As Jessie said “The report mentions nothing about mould…”

              Perhaps not, Dave. But others have referred to it.

              Stop nit-picking and look at the experiences state housing tenants are telling us. Otherwise you’re coming across as a dyed-in-the-wool National supporter unwilling to recognise what is happening around you.

    • aa says:

      Uninsulated houses don’t cause mould. The mouldiest houses in the country will be well insulated and warm. Mould is a result of moisture so living in an uninsulated house likely means more ventilation, less moisture, less mould. A lot of mould problems are caused by insulation trapping moisture inside wall cavities – pretty hard to get to for a tenant to clean.

      • aa says:

        Advantage of warmth is that air will hold more moisture, however it will still condense out if that air hits cold surface (inside a wall cavity for example). For a warm, dry house you need a balance of heating, insulation and ventilation.

      • dangerousdave says:

        It’s not hard for tenants to keep a house appropriately aired.

        • “It’s not hard for tenants to keep a house appropriately aired.”

          Yup. Open up all the doors and windows in the middle of winter… Stupid idea, huh, Dave?

          That comment shows that you are attempting to shift responsibility from the State to low-income families. It’s the old “they shouldn’t have kids” argument.

          I guess it means you can’t address the actual points raised, so you go into default mode and blame the most powerless and poor.

        • Sueh says:

          More households have both parents out working all day….as a point of interest to myself when driving around my local neighbourhood I noticed how many houses were all closed up which is probably due to no-one being home and having to ensure a safe house.

    • Sueh says:

      If you had bothered to click on all the links provided you would have read in one of the articles that one of the tenants was having to clean the mould every couple of days to even attempt to keep on top of the issue.

  3. Mike the Lefty says:

    We have good scientific analysis of it here, but why not just take it down to the very basic: Everyone knows that living in cold, damp conditions is bad for you, especially for children. What do you get when you have damp, cold conditions – mould, mildew. What happens to people who live in houses with such conditions? They get lots of colds, at the very least and then this can lead to pneumonia, arthritis and a host of other dangerous diseases and conditions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work this out, but the National Party members seemingly need a smack in the head to knock them out of their own smug self-satisfied delirium and wake them up to how a lot of our children live. Shame on them.

  4. bad12 says:

    What strikes me with the death of baby Emma-Lita Bourne was the fact that her brother with an ongoing respiratory disease was also present in that house where applied heating + a robust dehumidifier would not only have provided him with relief from the worst ongoing symptoms of such a disease, arguably such an application of ongoing heating + a robust dehumidifier in any one room of that house would have saved the life of wee Emma-Lita,

    i know what it’s like vis a vis HousingNZ and ‘fixing’ such Homes as what baby Emma-Lita and her family lived in, such ‘fixing’, usually of a superficial nature only occurs when, for whatever reason, the tenant moves out,

    ‘The Mansion’, a 1940’s State House i call home has a design fault which i won’t detail at length, but, this design fault has resulted, while i have been resident, in the storm water system flooding and collapsing the ceiling of one bedroom, and recently, flooding again, this time flooding the walls of the same bedroom,

    When i first moved in here no-one from HousingNZ bothered to tell me of this little problem which i later learned has been an issue with this and similar properties for decades,

    After the latest ‘episode’, the plumber was sent out, again, and, again i pointed out the problem and what i seen as the ‘fix’ to this problem, the plumber agreed’ but, the only action he could take was to ”put the problem and ‘fix’ into the system”,

    Both myself and the plumber know that ‘the system’ is in effect a black hole and nothing will occur except the inevitable future flooding and fixing of the walls and/or ceiling of the bedroom in question,

    The above little tale encapsulates part of what is amiss with HousingNZ’s maintenance program, addressing the symptoms while ignoring the cause of such symptoms,

    i do tho digress, there should have been both heating and a robust dehumidifier in at least one room of baby Emma-Lita’s home, with a prior diagnosis of a respiratory disease, baby Emma-Lita’s brother was entitled through WINZ to both a Child Disability Allowance and the $46 weekly that is the Disabilty Allowance for both adults and children,

    This: ”Disability Allowance: This allowance can help with extra costs that you, your partner, or child may have because of a disability. It can help pay for things like regular visits to the Doctor, Medicine, or EXTRA HEATING for your home”, from WINZ says it is so,

    It would appear then that baby Emma-Lita’s mum had no knowledge that there was money which she SHOULD have been given, long befor baby Emma-Lita died, to heat their Home,

    This: http://www.workandincome.govt.nz/documents/forms/disability-certificate.PDF is the Child Disability Certificate which is also filled out by a Doctor, the child disability allowance is distinct from the general disability allowance BUT both can be paid to the same child at the same time,

    SO, there is no good reason on the planet for a child with a respiratory disease to not have at least one safe room in their Home which is both heated and dehumidified, and, it appears it is the reluctance, as usual, of WINZ and/or doctors to provide this knowledge to the parents of such children that is preventing such from occurring,

    These Disability Allowances of course are an addressing of the Symptoms and not the Cause of such Respiratory Diseases, but, even in a situation where a Home is weather tight, insulated, and, free of molds the parents of children with respiratory diseases need to apply HEAT and Dehumidification to make the Homes of these children fit for habitation…

    • Jessie Hume says:

      Thank you for your email, you have given me a lot to think about and possibly stuff include in the ‘what to do’ blog I am preparing. One of the big problems is that Housing New Zealand have offered people a heater or dehumidifier to fix this issue when serious modifications and repairs are required. I do think it is important for people to know what their rights are and what help is available to them, often they are not aware and knowledge is power when it comes to safeguarding the health of yourself and your family.

      • aa says:

        you could also investigate heat recovery units. In NZ people tend to avoid ventilating their houses as they perceive they will lose heat. However ventilation is crucial and systems are available that will use outgoing moist warm air to heat colder fresh air coming in.

  5. GettingOn says:

    Thank you for that. I had been reading about mycotoxins a short while ago when the coroner’s verdict on little Emma-Lita’s death came out. Nowhere have I seen mentioned the issue of mould. The focus of all the stories has been the cold. Of course, many people have grown up in cold houses and had no health problems, probably because of the lack of mould, which means that they have no sympathy for the family in this case. The other key issue is that higher cost of electricity today. I remember huddling up to the heater when I was growing up. In those days electricity was relatively cheap. Not now.

    Neither of these significant issues are being addressed anywhere.

  6. Andrewo says:

    Two important questions need to be asked:

    1/Is there more mould now under National than there was under Labour?

    2/Is the core problem State Housing so should we be privatising it to improve maintenance standards?

    • 1/Is there more mould now under National than there was under Labour?

      AndrewO – is that how you measure this problem?! What are you, a totally witless, emotionless automaton?!

      2/Is the core problem State Housing so should we be privatising it to improve maintenance standards?

      No, AndrewO. The problem is that Housing NZ has been used as a cash cow to pay dividends to this government. I refer your attention to Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

      “The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity .” [p28]

      Source: http://www.hnzc.co.nz/our-publications/annual-report/2013-14-annual-report/Annual-Report-2014.pdf/view

    • dangerousdave says:

      1. Who knows. Mrs Bourne has been in her state house since 2007, so maybe she can tell us.
      2. No. While I have no problem with affordable subsidised housing being provided by the private sector, what needs to happen is that a> Housing NZ need to set the bar higher for the condition of their housing stock, and b> tenants need to sign up to a code of conduct around how they maintain the houses they live in. (If they don’t already).

  7. Stephen says:

    How about how hard is it to clean your house? Of course for left wingers such as yourselves, very hard as it requires effort. I would not be surprised if the daily blog is soon running a campaign for the government to employ cleaners to clean state houses rather than simply relying on tenants to do the work themselves.

    • Jessie Hume says:

      Your response is inane.

      In this context it doesn’t matter if people are left or right-wing.

      We *all* work hard to clean and safeguard our homes for our families and this issue is not partisan. I spend hours every week on my rental property doing my best to clear away (and remove the incentive for) mould inside and externally and my landlord has worked responsibly in conjunction with me to repair guttering and correct anything that I ought not to be responsible for. Our relationship is very positive and functional, I am grateful for my excellent landlord. However Housing New Zealand is no such landlord and instead simply provides dehumidifiers and heaters to homes with major leaks and mould infestations rather than carrying out building repairs.

      Neither the World Health Organisation or I are talking about minor surface household mould that can be resolved by general cleaning which is incredibly clear. A small amount of mould is everywhere.

      Furthermore I have spoken in detail about the need for people to be informed of the specific dangers of certain types of mixed mould exposure (which the WHO talks about) and be provided information by our own Ministry of Health about these dangers and about removal.

      Housing New Zealand is unwilling to take responsibility for maintenance of their decrepit homes, or to even inform tenants of the risks and responsibilities to health. Mould is not just a general irritant, it can kill.

      Everyone recognises there is a symbiotic relationship between tenants and landlords, what is unclear is where landlord responsibility ends and tenant responsibility begins and it is evident from the death of Emma-Lita and the numerous others that have occurred that Housing New Zealand are relying on the ambiguity of this issue to shirk their responsibility. They should be prosecuted.

    • Andrewo says:

      Housing NZ already pays contractors to mow the lawns.

      • bad12 says:

        Andrewo, the only place HousingNZ pays contractors to mow the lawns are in larger blocks of property where such lawns are for communal use,

        Tenants residing in HousingNZ properties are expected to maintain the grounds themselves, some do, some don’t,

        HousingNZ pays contractors to mow lawns if a property is untenanted for any amount of time, and, befor a new tenant moves in,

        You should comment from the basis of factual knowledge or not comment at all…

        • Andrewo says:

          I actually knew a guy who was contracted to do this.

          He had a neat deal: He would knock on the door of the house and offer the tenant half the money he got if they did it themselves, and found that many would.

          So over time he developed a neat business model of payment for non-mowing. Of course the nearby middle class suburbs were relieved of a few mowers which were left unlocked…

          • Brian Smith says:

            Nice story-of course, the last line reveals that it really is a crock of bullshit!

  8. Nick says:

    Hi Jessie

    This is a wonderfully empathetic and public health-conscious article. I’m a doctor studying Public Health, and what really surprised me was the evidence and statements from WHO, and the fact that I was taught very little about this in medical school. From my experience as a recent graduate, we were really only taught about mold exposure in the context of asthma, with little emphasis on the scale of the problem in New Zealand. So it would not surprise me if doctors in general were unaware of the risk, especially to children, of indoor mold exposure.

    That being said, I don’t think you can make the link between mold exposure and the lung bleed in this case. The WHO report talks about Infant Pulmonary Haemorrhage, which specifically would be bleeding from an artery (the supplying blood vessel) in the lungs in a child aged less than 1. The coroner’s report from Emma-Lita’s case describes a septic venous thrombus i.e. an infected blood clot in a vein (draining blood vessel), and at 2 years of age, she was also not an infant by the medical definition of the term (being under 1 year of age). Again the brain bleed was the direct result of this clot breaking up, travelling through the heart to the brain and lodging in one of the brain arteries, causing it to tear and bleed.

    The bug in this case was staphylococcus aureus, which is not a result of mold exposure, but is certainly associated with poor housing conditions and poverty, and in this way Emma-Lita’s physical and social environment is directly implicated in her death. Housing is a major determinant of ill health in New Zealand, for a massive range of conditions. I identify with the quote from Michael, it is incredibly frustrating as a medical practitioner to send children home from hospital straight back to the environment that made them sick in the first place. I agree that Housing New Zealand (and by extension, those who set the policy governing the corporation) might have been able to prevent this injustice and many others.

    • Jessie Hume says:

      Thank you very much Nick,

      I appreciate your clarification and your efforts as a health professional who clearly cares a great deal about those families you treat.

      I was cautious to avoid claiming mould had caused Emma-lita’s death because I am not a medical person and I don’t think I can say that based on my understanding of the impact of the bacterial abscess she developed in that home (I hope that I am correct in my understanding). I understand what you are saying and I’ll review my blog based on your input to ensure I’m not making this claim.

      I guess in the end the precise cause of Emma-lita’s death here is less relevant than say, the progression of her illness and the various factors that could have had an impact on the development of her illness (specifically the risks that could have been mitigated by a responsible landlord, and possibly those that are highlighted by the WHO).

      Of note are issues raised by studies on the impact of mould exposure on those with reduced immunity and the impact on those with developing lungs. In New Zealand it is common for health and government professionals to talk about the damp and general housing conditions but very rarely mould and the reason has to be questioned when there are a good deal of studies which implicate it.

      As a medical professional would you agree that the emphasis on the impact of mould needs to be properly examined our own Ministry of Health and government based on the WHO information? Would it be reasonable to ask the Ministry to update themselves on this information and ensure that health professionals look out for mould?

      Here is another literature review that I didn’t include before. I guess what concerns me is not just the risks of major health problems, such as rheumatic fever, pnemonia-like illnesses and death, etc, but also impacts on things such as learning, development, memory and the nervous system, etc:

      http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13590840400010318

    • wild katipo says:

      I have mentioned on another post that my son suffered from ALL -Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia .He developed it at age four , had it for 8 years of his 11 years 11 months of life with a remission period of 4 years.

      He ,- was a poster boy for recovery ( I jest ) and the heads at Starship were amazed at his healthy demeanor and robustness…( what we didn’t tell them was that I took on a science and technology diploma specifically to understand physiology , microbiology etc….to be able to understand and analyse all the various alternative practices and foods that seemed to have worked prior to the drug culture – and to which I spent month after month studying and revising) .

      And we used that in tandem with the barrage of cancer treatment drugs they threw at it as long as it didn’t run at cross purposes to each other.

      Now the relevance of the WHO report on mycotoxins being the GREAT MASQUERADER is thus :

      If you go into STARSHIPS Child Oncology wards – you are specifically asked to refrain from visiting if you have any colds, chest infections or any other symptoms for obvious reasons.

      When building was being carried out at Starship at that time…it was critically important that dust was minimized as well due to airborne microbes adhering to dust particles and entering the Oncology ward.

      Now….in my sons case he contracted a microorganism called Pneumo Cystus Careeni …pneumo (air ,pulmonary ) Cystus ( cyst /cyst like ) .This is a common microorganism that people with a healthy immune system have no problems at all with.

      However those with compromised immune systems such as AIDS , cancer patients are extremely vulnerable. This particular organism is what killed thousands of AIDS patients in the 1980’s – and prompted millions to be spent on research and development of the drugs to combat it it. So knowledge of it has been around for a long time now.

      And it is only recently that the scientific community has reclassified it from being a mold…to a bacterium ….even then today they are divide because of the similarity to mold characteristics.

      For several months my son presented with chest infection like symptoms , wheezing , rapid whooping sounds when he slept…breathlessness…which progressively got worse despite assurances by Doctors at Waikato Hospital.

      Doctors who were not Oncology specialists but General practitioners of the children’s wards.

      We took him back constantly saying something was not right… they ran lab tests at least a dozen times -all coming back with negative results. So they prescribed Ventolin… they gave him antibiotics , they said we and my son were non compliant at ensuring he took the Ventolin , then they said he ad a virus , – in fact , – the reality is…they were out of their depth , hadn’t a clue what they were dealing with and were too damn lazy to either to

      a) consult his medical notes or

      b) contact Starship immedialty.

      They did neither over a 6 week period until one night I had enough , took him back , they contacted Starship and Starship told them to get the boy on an ambulance immediately.

      I and my son went to Auckland together in the Ambulance.

      That night.

      They ran tests,.. and the head of Oncology was furious…

      It was explained a little later after x rays that ‘ what it was like for my son was like trying to breathe through a wall of concrete ‘ . The scar tissue was enormous and came up on the x rays as a solid white mass.

      Scar tissue.

      He was moved down to PICU ward for the remaining 6 weeks of his life. Tubes sticking out of him all over the place.

      Now ….just to ram home the seriousness of all this shit – that boy, you see … was described by the funeral director as a tall , robust boy , ..’ that you would never have known he was ill ‘…( he knew the family due to the small town connection , you see ) – must have been his half Dutch , half Kiwi family , I dunno….

      But 6 weeks before he died – he was helping me lift yearling lambs over a fence to put into another paddock.

      AND THAT’S how serious playing round with molds, bacterium and viruses can be.

      • heather g says:

        I’m so sorry for your loss. Heartbreaking.

      • Sueh says:

        I, too, am very sorry for your loss….it truly must be not just heartbreaking, but very frustrating as this was a needless death. My heart goes out to you and your family.

        • wild katipo says:

          It is a quite common experience for hundreds of families -especially those with children in those circumstances.

          And some fight it like we did, through the Health and Disability Commission – others don’t.

          Even though there is the knowledge of this – others having undergone similar circumstances – it never gets any easier , but you still have to live life.

          Perhaps this is one reason I am very cynical when I hear ‘experts’ spout off these days. Their only human – and if the ‘ experts’ were always so right – the Titanic would never have sunk.

  9. wanafli says:

    Housing NZ have been compelled for years to turn in a profit. Under jonkey and his cohorts, this has simply become much worse. In such circumstances, costs are cut – sometimes drastically – and usually the first to suffer is maintenance.
    It’s true that far too many of NZ homes are cold and damp, but very little is being done about it.
    I wonder if the jonkey party was aware of this case before it became public knowledge, hence their efforts to flog Housing NZ’s stock onto some poor unsuspecting social agency. So, when the s*** hit the fan, the spotlight would been on the poor sods who had picked up the tab.

  10. CLEANGREEN says:

    FAMILY HEALTH WARNING FOR IMMEADIATE ACTION PEOPLE.

    Our health is being damaged by Government policy of closing down our woollen carpet mills in this country.

    Key is responsible for our declining health of our families I should know I was poisoned by the following issues surrounding what is in toxic imported nylon carpeting while living in US/Canada and was unaware of the dangers then so wake up as mould and health risks are associated with nylon carpets that also offer no thermal insulation benefits that wool did and perhaps that is why we are all sick in rental homes now with cheap nylon carpeting?
    We don’t even make woollen carpets any more but buy cheap imported toxic plastic carpets that don’t offer warmth and insulation to our so called damp mouldy homes? So if wool carpeting is not manufactured here and we are forced to use substandard man made fibre (Nylon) for our floor insulation perhaps we should point the finger at the Government? It is there flawed economic modelling that excluded the advantages of wool insulation who is responsible for harming our families who cant effort expensive electricity to heat our homes now. Secondly due to them we don’t have the options any more to use wool carpets – but only toxic Nylon carpets that are proven to have 300 damaging toxic cancer, cardiovascular, & nervous system damage, causing chemicals in their manufacture.
    http://www.ecomall.com/homepage.htm

    CARPET DANGERS

    Carpets cover the floors of our business and schools. Children play for hours on them, infants crawl on them and breathe deeply of their fumes, proud homeowners inhale that ‘new-carpet smell’, and all the while we are being poisoned by the chemicals, allergens and toxic dust that lurks in our carpets. Whether your carpets are new or old, they probably have more bad things in them than you want to imagine. The list is staggering. For new carpets there are ‘volatile organic compounds’ VOC’s. These include toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, acetone and a host of other chemicals, some of which have already made the EPA’s list of Extremely Hazardous Substances. Known carcinogens such as p-Dichlorobenzene are in new carpets, as are chemicals that produce fetal abnormalities in test animals. These chemicals also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans. Other compounds in new carpeting that affect your health are adhesives, stain protectors, mothproofing and flame retardants. That ‘new carpet smell’ comes from 4-PC, associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems that are suffered by many new carpet owners. 4-PC is used in the latex backing of 95% of US carpets. In 2000 the 3M Company removed the chemical perflouro-octanyl salphonate from their product, Scotchgard, because it had been found to cause reproductive problems in rats. It had also been found in high levels in the wildlife of urban areas. Mothproofing chemicals contain naphthalene, which is known to produce toxic reactions, especially in newborns. Fire retardants often contain PBDE’s which are known to cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans. – See more at: https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/06/13/greece-and-all-that-unpacking-austerity-in-europe/#comment-289777

  11. Kara Rosemeier says:

    Jessie, I wholeheartedly agree that housing standards need to change, and that mould is a severe concern, but: the Healthy Housing Bill will not substantially change any of this. It is a tick-box exercise, which may be better than nothing, but is no guarantee for the delivery of healthier housing. We need a bill that requires outcomes, and mandates easily measurable results. 20C is the indoor temperature that the WHO (1987) sees as the minimum for pre-schoolers, elderly and sick people. It is also the minimum that rental accommodation needs to provide in many places overseas COST EFFECTIVELY!!! Rather than making landlords ticking boxes which may or may not result in the outcomes sought, but which effects will be difficult to measure in any case: why are we not requiring a minimum temperature inside of rental accommodation instead? It’s easily monitored and compliance easily verified. Combined with a cap on rent for the WARM house, it will also be an incentive for landlords to improve the energy-efficiency of rental accommodation, as houses that leak warmth will impact on their bottom line. Many US and European states use this model successfully. I do not have any confidence that ticking boxes will get similar results.