SANTA CRUZ -- UC Santa Cruz graduate student Matthew Richert said he believes the toxic mold in his campus apartment caused his daughter's severe respiratory problems.
Richert and his wife, Lori George, have filed a lawsuit against UCSC, and are seeking an excess of $25,000.
"It's just been a nightmare," George said.
The couple's daughter Libby, then 1, began to have breathing problems in October 2011, four months after the family arrived.
Santa Cruz doctors couldn't stabilize Libby, and transferred her to Stanford's pediatric intensive care unit. She spent the next three days in critical condition.
Libby, who was eventually diagnosed with asthma and allergic rhinitis, was hospitalized at Stanford three more times.
At first, the couple was unsure what triggered Libby's attacks, and took their older daughter out of preschool to minimize germ exposure.
The family started noticing mold on their walls in fall of 2011, around the same time Libby first got sick. "We did our best to manage it, but it just kept coming back," Richert said.
"Eventually I realized it was in the walls and the floor," he said.
In June 2012, during Libby's health checkup, the couple told their doctor, Adam Yarme, about the mold. Yarme told them that mold can cause allergic reactions, and wrote a letter to UCSC housing requesting the family be transferred if the mold couldn't be removed.
Richert and George filed five transfer requests in the following year.
In May, the family conducted an independent mold inspection, which showed five types of toxic mold known to cause severe asthma and allergic rhinitis growing in their apartment.
The university also conducted its own inspection around the same time, which showed damage to the walls. The university transferred the family to a hotel a few days later. The apartment remains unoccupied, said Richert.
"It's very frustrating, it's very scary and we're not the only ones," George said.
In March 2009, more than 100 residents gathered at Family Student Housing to protest rising rent and substandard living conditions. Many complained that mold was growing in their apartments and allergy attacks kept their children up coughing at night.In April, then-resident Orville Canter collected 142 signatures from residents who said their units were infested with mold, despite cleaning and common-sense prevention methods.
"We felt if we banded together and spoke as one group, they would have to address the issue," Canter said.
UCSC's May mold inspection showed around 60 of the 200 family units needed repair, said campus spokesman Jim Burns.
Most of the repairs are minor and preventative, such as caulking and painting. Some repairs are completed, and the campus is working to schedule the rest, said Burns.
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