A Bronx woman says she was forced to live in the city's shelter system because her government-subsidized apartment was making her sick, and the city refused to do anything about it. Bronx reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.
After living in a homeless shelter for three years, Rhonda Thurston got a subsidized apartment on Brook Avenue through a city program. But she says she had to wear a mask to live there.
"I'm just constantly coughing all the time; my eyes are turning red, my face, my body really, is itchy," said Thurston. "There's just like an itch all over my upper body."
The problems began after a leak last year was not repaired for two months.
"After they ripped up the floors in the bedroom, you can see it was just obvious that there was some mold substance on the floor," said Thurston.
Thurston filed complaints with city agencies claiming her landlord was not doing anything about the mold.
After her eight-year-old son got pneumonia, she had the air tested and found mold. Doctors say constant exposure can be harmful.
"It's difficult to have a causal relationship, establish a causal relation between exposure and developing pneumonia, but Aspergillus can cause lung infection," said Chief of Pulmonary at Harlem Hospital, Dr. Raji Ayinla. "It can also locally destroy the tissue of the lung."
After replacing the floorboards and painting, the landlord said the problem was resolved Thurston said the air was still making her and her son sick, so she filed suit.
A visual inspection by the Department of Housing and Preservation Development found no sign of the mold. But a Health Department test detected it the air. And when NY1 visited, there appeared to be a problem.
After being in the apartment for just a couple of minutes, especially in the bedroom, it became difficult for me to breathe.
Doctor Ayinla says mold issues can go unresolved because there are no federal guidelines.
Still feeling sick Thurston and her son returned to a shelter
"I don't think it's fair," Thurston said.
After NY1 raised questions the Department of Homeless Services said it will allow Thurston to transfer her subsidy to another apartment if she can find one.
Housing lawyers tell us this is a problem they often see. Low-income New Yorkers living in apartments with mold that cannot be seen, but is making them sick.