A disabled man who has been left with serious health problems because of the toxic mould that has spread across large parts of his flat, has called for his council to be held accountable for its repeated failure to make the building safe.
Maxime*, who lives in a small, one-bedroom council flat in east London, has been complaining about the black mould, damp and roof leaks since 2017, and he believes he developed the autoimmune condition sarcoidosis because of the infestation.
He has now been told by a specialist in thoracic medicine that he is at risk of lung complications because of the mould and damp in the fourth-floor flat.
He has chronic pulmonary sarcoidosis, which studies have shown can be linked to exposure to damp, mouldy environments.
The NHS website warns that damp and mould in the home can affect the immune system and make a person more likely to develop respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies and asthma.
In addition to long-term mental distress and chronic migraine and cluster headaches, Maxime has now developed chronic insomnia, a skin rash and sores across his body, as well as chronic pain and fatigue.
Eventually, he even began to lose his hair and cough up blood.
Maxime said the symptoms have been caused by having to breathe in the toxic mould (pictured) every day for more than four years.
He lost his job two years ago after he asked his employer to make reasonable adjustments for health problems that had been caused by the mould.
His GP initially thought he had lung cancer before referring him to a specialist who diagnosed him with sarcoidosis.
He only discovered the worst of the mould at the end of last year, as it had been hidden behind the sink and kitchen units where he had been keeping his food, plates and cutlery.
The council sent a senior surveyor to his flat in 2017, who confirmed there were multiple issues linked to roof leaks and damp inside the property and with the external walls of the building.
But Maxime claims that after this visit, the council refused for more than three years to investigate the mould, and the roof leaks and damp that he believes were causing it.
A council surveyor eventually visited last October, but the local authority took another seven months to begin to treat the mould.
But Maxime said the work was so poorly done that he complained.
The council has now agreed to carry out further work on his flat, including replacing kitchen units that are contaminated by mould, but it is still refusing to carry out the work on the building that will prevent the mould returning.
He has now asked to be moved to a new home, but he says the council has so far failed to send him the forms he needs to complete to apply for a transfer.
He told Disability News Service: “The council has failed in their duty of care and I have been slowly poisoned over the last four years.
“Every day I stay in this property, I continue to be poisoned. Every breath I take feels like it is slowly killing me.”
He added: “I wish I could go to court and get the council to acknowledge the pain and injury they have inflicted on my mental and physical health, as well as the nightmare they have put me through.”
He also fears there is wider systemic neglect of other disabled people in the borough, and highlights the case of a man with paranoid schizophrenia who won a court battle with the council in January.
Troy Goldie had been left in fear for his life after he had to live with a broken front door for four years while living on a street where there had been four stabbings.
Thanks to his legal case, the repairs were carried out and Goldie was awarded compensation and had his legal costs paid.
Maxime said Hackney council claims to care about “decency, inclusivity, dignity, respect, equality, justice, openness and the health and well-being of its most vulnerable residents… but the grim reality is that the exact opposite is happening to vulnerable people like me who are helpless, don’t have a voice and are left ignored, abused and injured.
“If someone like me, who still has a bit of fight in him, is being put through this, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for people with more severe impairments.”
A Hackney council spokesperson said: “We are understandably concerned about this ongoing situation and have been working to address the issues that have been raised by the tenant.
“It was provisionally agreed following a visit to the property in question that we would replace all of the kitchen base units in order to deal with the issue.
“We are also investigating concerns raised about smells emanating from service pipes behind a bedroom cupboard.
“As the tenant has been citing his health conditions as a major concern and wishes to move from the property, we have advised him to contact his housing officer to consider an application for transfer on medical grounds.
“We will continue to work with the tenant to address the concerns raised.”
*He has asked for his surname not to be used
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