Mold could have caused Mansfield council tenant’s death, coroner rules | Social housing

Exposure to toxic mold may have been a factor in the death of a Mansfield woman who made multiple complaints to her council about the state of her home before she died, a coroner has ruled.

“Fun and cheerful” Jane Bennett, 52, died of lung disease on June 8, 2023 during her fourth hospital stay in a month for difficulty breathing and cough, which Bennett thought was related to mold in her home.

In an unusual move, a prevention of future deaths report was issued ahead of the inquest warning there was a “risk that future deaths could occur unless action was taken” and inspections of council homes in the area were ordered.

The court heard how Bennett had moved into a bungalow after mobility issues made it difficult to access his council flat. Her respiratory problems “appeared to begin after she moved into this property,” a report states.

During Bennett’s last stay, Dr John Hutchinson, a consultant at King’s Mill Hospital who treated her for a lung illness (one of which may have been exposure to mould) wrote a letter to Mansfield District Council expressing concern about the impact of mold on your health. . However, Bennett’s condition worsened and she died two days later, before the letter could be sent.

The court was told that Bennett had purchased two large dehumidifiers in an attempt to control mold growth in the house and had made more than eight complaints about various damp and mold problems, including leaky doors, ceilings and radiators, and condensation on soil. windows inside the house.

A statement from one of Bennett’s close friends, read in court, said the mold in her home was so bad that “it looked like there was a rug on the wall.”

Photos of the bungalow show large gray mold stains on the walls, stains on the ceiling and along the baseboards, as well as on the closet and drawers.

Isabella O’Neill, who had been friends with Bennett since childhood, told The Guardian: “The (mold) smell was very strong. You could smell it as soon as you walked in the back door. “I was there for 10 minutes and I couldn’t breathe.”

After his death, O’Neill went to retrieve a jacket from the house that Bennett wanted to give to a friend. “It was just green with mold, completely green,” he said.

Jill Finnesey, Mansfield council’s head of housing, said the local authority had “responded to Jane’s requests” and carried out the necessary work on her home.

“In terms of doing everything we can as an owner, I feel we have done everything we can to do it quickly,” he told the inquest.

However, Bennett’s family, who was not represented by an attorney, said they felt more could have been done to help clean up the mold in the home.

Elizabeth Didcock, the assistant coroner, said she found no fault with the council’s handling of Bennett’s complaints.

He also said the hospital had provided “adequate treatment” and there were “no care issues.”

A finding of natural causes would be common in such a case, Didcock said, but because “I just don’t have a cause for interstitial lung disease” and couldn’t exclude mold or vaping, he recorded a narrative verdict.

He added that he would talk to other coroners about whether it would be possible to order mold testing as standard in cases where someone had died, where mold may be a factor.

“I think we can potentially do more in the future regarding direct (mold) sampling and I will consider it,” he added.

He extended his condolences to the family.

Speaking of Bennett, who was a mother and grandmother, O’Neill said: “She was the kind of person who would do anything for you, do anything for anyone.”

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