Mould found in lungs of man who died in house with chronic damp, inquest hears
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Mould found in lungs of man who died in house with chronic damp, inquest hears

Jul 24, 2023

Pathologist says Luke Brooks, 27, of Oldham, died from respiratory problems caused by aspergillus pneumonia

A type of mould was found in the lungs of a 27-year-old man who died in a house that had chronic damp, a pathologist has told an inquest.

The family of Luke Brooks believe mould in their privately rented end of terrace house in Oldham caused his death.

On Tuesday, consultant pathologist Abdul Ganjifrockwala told an inquest that Brooks had died from acute respiratory distress syndrome, which was caused by aspergillus pneumonia.

He said aspergillus, a type of mould, was found in the deceased man’s lungs during a postmortem examination.

The pathologist was asked by senior coroner Joanne Kearsley whether it was possible to contract pneumonia for other reasons – even if the fungus was present.

The doctor said it was possible but, on the balance of probabilities, he thought aspergillus was the cause in this case.

He said: “This is because of the presence of the organisms there. Had the organisms not been present, this would be bog standard bronchial pneumonia.”

The coroner discussed with the pathologist how Brooks’s condition had deteriorated over six days after he developed symptoms including a cough, rash and sore throat.

He died in his bedroom after experiencing what his friend described as a seizure, the inquest at Rochdale coroner’s court heard.

Ganjifrockwala said it was possible Brooks’s symptoms were evidence of a viral infection which “could have made his lungs more susceptible to the development of aspergillus infection”.

The coroner asked the pathologist: “On the balance of probabilities, do you still feel aspergillus has had a part in Luke’s death?”

He replied: “I think so, yes.”

Ganjifrockwala said that his postmortem examination findings originally included a further factor contributing to the cause of death, which was “heavily mould-infested accommodation”.

But he agreed with the coroner that he had now deferred this conclusion to other experts.

He said: “Yes, solely because they have more experience in this area.”

Prof Malcolm Richardson, a medical mycology consultant, later said that aspergillus did not normally grow inside a building.

He said it was more commonly found on garden waste, with green bin waste collectors at risk of being exposed to greater levels of aspergillus spores.

Richardson said he carried out tests for mould at the family home in April 2023 and expressed surprise that no tests had been carried out closer to Brooks’s death the previous October.

He said it was frustrating that “quite a lot of repair and decoration” had been carried out at the property between Brooks’s death and his visit.

Brooks’s family believe the mould infestation in their house was the cause of death.

The inquest has also heard that Luke Brooks spent most of his time in the bedroom he shared with his best friend, Christopher Haycock, three dogs and a cat which came and went.

PC Adam Rogers, who attended Brooks’ death, took photographs of the bedroom as well as one showing a section of exposed plaster on the bedroom wall. Another showed mould in the upstairs bathroom.

The inquest heard that Rogers gave a statement in which he said he could feel damp on his lungs when he went into Luke Brooks’s bedroom. He has also described it as being untidy with empty plates, beer cans and no carpet.

On Tuesday, the coroner allowed the release of photographs taken by Rogers which show the state of the bedroom.

On Monday, Luke’s mother, Patricia Brooks, said they moved into the house in 2014 and had no heating or hot water for three years. There was mould and damp everywhere, the inquest heard.

She told how she begged Oldham council to find her family alternative accommodation and was advised to keep on bidding for social housing.

Luke Brooks has been described by his mother as “funny, witty, intelligent, clever”.

The inquest is being overseen by the same coroner who last year ruled that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died in Rochdale from a respiratory condition caused by mould at his home.

Her conclusion sent shockwaves through the social housing sector and prompted ministers to toughen laws.

The inquest, expected to last five days, continues.