Family demands action after mouldy conditions in Birmingham flat led to child's ICU stay

ITV News Central Journalist Barnaby Papadopulos visited the flat in Druids Heath - and saw the extent of the problem

A mother from Birmingham says the city's council took six years to address a serious mould problem at her home - despite the health risks to her young children.

A leak in her apartment block has led to serious damp in the two-bedroom Druids Heath flat, with subsequent mould in the bathroom and toilet, both bedrooms, and the living room.

In 2019 Emma Whitehouse's second youngest son was admitted to an intensive care unit for the first time. He has asthma, and she claims that the conditions in the apartment had worsened his symptoms considerably.

"He was about six or seven months old," she told ITV News Central.

"He got rushed by an ambulance and had to stay in ICU - he was there about four or five nights. It was scary."

She added: "I was in tears, I was on the phone to my mum because I thought I was going to lose him."

Her fears are not unfounded.

In November, a coroner in Manchester ruled that a two-year-old boy named Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to damp and mould at the family's home in Rochdale.

The coroner added to his report that "the property had inadequate ventilation and was not equipped for normal day-to-day living activities, which led to excess damp and condensation."

His death was described as a "defining" moment for the housing sector to improve, after Awaab's family made repeated attempts to get the mould removed.

Birmingham City Council said they have apologised to the tenant and have arranged with them to treat the mould at the Whitehouse's home as a "matter of urgency".

The family have now been moved into temporary accommodation while work is carried out on the apartment - and whilst they're pleased the issues might get sorted, there's an overriding sense of "too little, too late".

Expert in child asthma says that mouldy homes can worsen symptoms - and effects can last into adulthood

Speaking to ITV News Central Dr Ian Sinha, a respiratory consultant and the Royal College of Physician's lead on child asthma, said that "exposure can be harmful to all children - no child should be living in a mouldy home".

"Exposure to that mould can be harmful," he said.

"When we think about children with other reasons for their airways and their lungs to be vulnerable, the problem just gets worse."

He added that exposure to damp and mould as a young child can impact respiratory health when a person grows up.

"If we look to the future we can see problems then as well - if we look at respiratory ill health across the life course, including adult respiratory can trace the origins of lots of these types of illnesses right back to the early years of life."

City Council treats issue 'as a matter of urgency'

In a statement, Birmingham City Council said: "We apologise for the distress that this case has caused the tenant. We contacted the tenant and arranged with them to treat the mould as a matter of urgency.

"Work has now started and the tenant has moved to temporary accommodation while this happens."As the largest social landlord in the country Birmingham City Council inspects its properties for mould as part of its focus on carrying out increased numbers of home visits and is actively working with our tenants to prevent it."