Almost a third of people in the UK are living in mouldy or damp homes, according to new research by a campaign group.
A survey by Warm This Winter, a coalition of 50 charities, has found 29% of people experience mould frequently or occasionally.
That statistic includes an estimated 3.4 million people who are pregnant or have young children in the home.
The data also shows a geographic split, with cities in the west of the UK worst affected.
Warm This Winter’s survey found that 10% of households across the country generally experience mouldy living conditions frequently.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, described the findings as “chilling”.
“[They] underline why we need further urgent action from the government to step in and help households stay warm this winter,” he said.
“Vulnerable households, including young families and expectant mothers, are struggling because of ministers’ failure to provide emergency financial assistance this winter and longer term failures to invest in the permanent solutions to fuel poverty, such as insulation and reform of energy pricing.”
Energy prices are set to rise in January, with the typical annual household bill going up from £1,834 to £1,928, a rise of £94 or 5%.
Mould, which is often caused by damp or cold, can produce spores and toxins which are harmful.
In 2020, two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from a respiratory condition caused by “extensive” mould in his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. In 2022, 27-year-old Luke Brooks, of Oldham, Greater Manchester, died from acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by a type of mould.
‘We’ve been sick every year’
Heather Leonard, 52, lives in temporary accommodation in Bartley Green, Birmingham, with her two sons aged 15 and 20, one of whom has severe autism.
She says her house is covered in mould and her and her sons all suffer with asthma.
“It’s been so bad,” she says. “Every year, during the wintertime, when you can’t keep your windows open 24 hours a day, the kids and I always end up getting chest infections.
“We’ve been sick every year, because we all three have asthma. We can feel the effect all year round. But during the wintertime it gets particularly difficult.”
Heather says she complained to her provider, Second City Housing, and that someone visited the property three months ago and painted over the mould.
However, she says it has since returned in other places and that she has now been handed a section 21 eviction notice.
Heather describes opening the windows in the property every day, even spraying the mould herself, but says she can’t afford to keep the heating on all the time.
She says her 15-year-old son, Jamie, has to share her bedroom now as his room was “so overcome with mould”.
“All of the walls and the carpet was so filled with it that all the furniture in there got covered with mould as well,” Heather says. “It had to be thrown away.”
Second City Housing says it has “diligently” sought to co-ordinate with Heather for necessary repairs but “unavailability and scheduling conflicts” have “presented challenges gaining timely access for essential repairs”.
The company also says that “Ms Leonard’s actions or omissions, including citing health and family challenges, have also contributed to the deterioration of the property’s condition”.
The housing provider says it has “actively worked to complete all necessary repairs”, and that the mould has worsened due to “the tenant’s activities” such as failing to report water leaks promptly, inadequate ventilation, and poor maintenance of damp areas.
A statement said: “We remain dedicated to resolving this matter promptly and collaboratively with Ms Leonard to ensure her living conditions meet necessary standards.
“We anticipate a swift resolution and trust that this information provides clarity on our efforts and challenges.”