Awaab Ishak’s death from exposure to mold is a shocking and entirely preventable tragedy (Report, 15 November). The risk to health caused by poor housing conditions has been established for more than 30 years. Research we published in the 1980s exposed the impact of damp and mold on children’s respiratory symptoms, with clear evidence of a dose-response relationship, such that those exposed to greater concentrations of mold were at greater risk of ill health. Crucially, the relationship between ill health and housing conditions was independent of lifestyle factors such as smoking in the household, how people dried their clothes and pet ownership.
On the contrary, there was evidence that condensation, dampness and mold were a consequence of poor building standards, lack of insulation and poor ventilation. The study received considerable media attention at the time and was cited in successful court actions. Several housing authorities took action to upgrade houses and a tenants’ group in Glasgow won an EU grant to improve their heating systems, ventilation and insulation. It is, therefore, depressing and infuriating that successive Tory governments continue to blame tenants for their housing conditions and their ill health.
Emeritus professor of health policy research, University of Edinburgh
Dr. Claudia Martin Edinburgh
Dr. Sonja Hunt Franklin, Pennsylvania, US
Three years ago our housing association landlord, Peabody, informed us that the dampness and associated mold in our flat was the fault of our “lifestyle”. By this they mean breathing, washing clothes and the like. As with others on our estate, its solution was for us to open the windows and turn up the heating. Not a serious option, given the cost of living constraints, so we have to buy further stocks of mold and mildew sprays to deal with the problem.
It is long past time for proper rules and proper enforcement of them on big, hard-nosed housing associations as well as on small fry.
Is the Michael Gove who has written to every council leader and social housing provider to say the death of Awaab Ishak “must never happen again” the same Michael Gove who, when education secretary, dismantled the Every Child Matters strategy based on prevention and more joined -up thinking about child well-being?
This policy was put in place by the previous Labor government after the death of Victoria Climbié exposed the shameful failings in the protection of our most vulnerable children, and enjoyed cross-party support at a local level. Every Child Matters was a coherent strategy that required local authorities to put in place a plan based on the principles of children being healthy and staying safe. Now, another child dies in terrible circumstances and all we get is an admonishing letter. Just what makes Gove think that this is enough?
Chudleigh Knighton, Devon
If the death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale is being called a defining moment for change in social housing tenant care, what happened to the defining moment five years ago that was the Grenfell Tower fire? How many defining moments do we need before the powers that be do something and key culprits are prosecuted?