Girl, 7, suffers collapsed lung after living in mouldy flat where mushrooms grow

A single mum-of-three has opened up on her living nightmare after her eldest daughter was rushed to hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. Mum Sacha, whose real name we are not revealing, said this wasn’t an isolated incident, as her children have been in and out of A&E and often wake up with a sore throat, eye infections, eczema and chest problems. The concerned parent fears her mouldy and damp council flat in Fairburn House, Hammersmith, west London, may be the cause of the health issues and has accused the local authority of having ignored the problem for several months. 

The young children, the mum claimed, also lose their breath easily when they play and are often off school sick. Sacha said to have noticed dampness getting worse in 2021, with the single mother claiming she can tell when her neighbour has the water turned on because her storage room becomes damp and smelly.

Two years ago tragedy almost struck, as her then seven-year-old daughter Eliana, whose name we are also protecting, was rushed to hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

The mum was told her child would need an operation to remove fluid from the lungs, but fortunately she managed to escape the procedure by recovering in time.

The doctors, Sacha claimed, told her she was lucky to have brought Eliana in in time as “with kids, it can go that way at once”. Speaking to MyLondon, she continued: “It was the worst feeling in the world. When it’s your kids, you can’t hear any bad news. It was the worst time of my life.” 

Eliana, who is now nine, said the conditions of her flat have an impact not just on her health but also on her social and school life.

After explaining she can’t bring friends at home because they can’t stand being in the mouldy flat and can’t do homework as the bad smell makes it difficult to focus, she said: “I can’t go to my bedroom because it smells like mould.

‘It feels like someone has sliced my throat’

“I have to leave my door open all the time in case something happens. I can’t do my homework and that gets me in trouble. It feels like I’m the only person in the school who can’t do their homework.

“I wake up because I have a sore throat. It feels like someone sliced my throat and little specks of rocks have fallen in and it’s very hard to swallow.”

Sacha’s council flat is so overrun by mould it has moss and large mushrooms growing in her bathroom, as well as streaks of brown mould in her kitchen and living room. 

Her family’s clothes and fabrics are drenched in mould and damp stench no matter how much she tries to get rid of it, she added.

Sacha’s health is also being impacted by her flat, according to the mother of three, as she is said to suffer from rosacea – a skin condition – which she claimed doctors told her is caused by the dampness in her flat. The mother also alleged to be suffering from shortness of breath despite trying her best to take care of herself by going to the gym.

The situation in her flat, she also claimed, has also hit her livelihood, as she said: “My health has gone downhill and I’ve lost my job because I’ve had to look after my daughters. I’m worried when the kids get a fever. When one of them was hospitalised, it affected me badly.”

The mother is now asking her landlord, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, to either move her and family or fix the mould issue for good.  

Residents in Fairburn House believe a leak in a flat on the seventh floor has affected several homes in the building. The tenant of the flat is aware of the situation and trying to get it dealt with, residents said.

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Sacha claimed the council is aware of the build-up in her flat and said she’s been in constant contact with housing officers and contractors.

The council contractors, she said, visited her home two years ago and agreed to paint its walls with mould paint. She added: “They told me to wait until the damp has dried or they’ll say someone is out to do the job, except the problem isn’t in my flat”.

Sacha isn’t the only tenant in the council estate affected by extensive mould and damp issues. Sayed, who had lived in the apartment above Sacha’s since 2007, said he went to hospital with sepsis and pneumonia in September.

The council knows there is dampness in his flat and has told him it’s due to a leak from the flat above, Sayed claimed before saying the local authorities reimbursed him £400 after wet concrete poured down from the flat damaging equipment and clothing he had stored in his cupboard. 

The man, who fled to the UK as a Syrian refugee in the 1990s after being tortured, also said the issues in his home are impacting his mental wellbeing, with the trauma and stress he is experiencing giving him “flashbacks to my home when I was in prison”.

The tenant who lives in the flat where the leak originated also spoke out, claiming the council had been warned by her about the issues months back, adding the council contractors had offered her a dehumidifier for the mould growing in her bathroom and promised multiple times to fix the leak – but failed to do so.

A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesperson admitted it has “let the residents down”, and said: “We are sorry that we have let the residents of Fairburn House down. We deeply apologise and recognise that we need to do much better as their landlord as we upgrade our housing repairs service.

“We have moved two of the families to new homes in the borough while we complete the repairs. And we have successfully fixed the leak in the other flat and will continue to work with the tenants to improve their living conditions.

“We have established a dedicated repairs taskforce, appointed a new council housing senior management team and hired additional contractors to help tackle issues more quickly and effectively in a ‘right first time’ approach. We are also investing more than £600million to radically improve our council homes over the next 12 years.

“It is the biggest council homes retrofit and refurbishment plan in the borough’s history. This includes major investment across the West Kensington estate, starting later this year, to substantially upgrade its five blocks and neighbouring buildings.”  

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