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A mold refugee is a person who, because of symptoms caused by indoor contaminants and moisture damages cannot live, stay, work or study in premises which cause symptoms/illness.

HOMEPAKOLAISET, Mold refugees, is a group of people who have been disabled due to no fault of their own but under the circumstances developed by the society. This group of people is in need of an instant assistance.

In Finland there are a lot of sick buildings. According to the "Moisture and Mould Programme" run by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, approximately as many as 600,000 – 800,000 Finnish people out of 5,4 million are exposed daily to indoor contaminants and impurities caused by mold. At worst, these indoor contaminants cause permanent and severe illnesses. The emissions of moisture-damaged buildings have been stated to cause e.g. damage to internal organs, neurological symptoms, severe memory lapses and concentration disorders, mucous, severe lung diseases, hypersensitivity to fragrances and chemicals and various autoimmune diseases. In some people this exposure causes permanent sensitivity. For people with such a sensitivity it is impossible to remain in most of the buildings, which makes normal living, working and taking care of daily business considerably difficult.

However, in Finland this group of people affected by sick buildings has not yet been recognized: sick people don't get support, medical treatment nor social services although their situations are critical and the basic elements of life – home, health, work, studying possibilities and social safety network are ruined. Many people have lost their entire properties and belongings due to moisture-damaged homes, in addition to the loss of health. Some people have lost their livelihoods because of falling ill, which has prevented them from continuing working in their moisture-damaged workplaces. In these cases, sick people don't necessarily get any income because this illness and problem don't officially exist. The knowledge of the doctors in Finland is inadequate and not up-to-date. Many people taken ill from moisture-damage remain without proper medical treatment and are diagnosed as mentally ill even in the 2010s. Some people become permanently homeless because they are not able to find suitable residences in our housing stock. The activities of the Finnish authorities are not meeting the needs of the sick people in any way at the moment.

This means that in Finland we have a group of people who are not able to live normally, whose basic safety has been ruined and whose existence is not officially recognized. The mold refugees movement was generated by the needs of these people to get basic rights such as healthy places for working and studying and residences, proper medical treatment and the same government services and social benefits as other citizens.

A mold refugee is a person who, because of symptoms caused by indoor contaminants and moisture damages cannot live, stay, work or study in premises which cause symptoms/illness.

Mold refugees are:
  • people showing symptoms at their workplaces/ looking for a clean workplace and job
  • people forced out of their homes and continuously moving: people who have moved several times to escape mold, but have not succeeded in finding clean residences
  • people who are trapped in homes with mold and moisture damage: e.g. people who own damaged residences with no financial possibilities to acquire other clean apartments and people getting symptoms from apartments that are not properly examined and renovated or closed due to mold problems
  • homeless people: in Finland there is a growing group of people who, because of various symptoms, sleep e.g. in cars and on balconies
  • pupils and students whose symptoms impede or prevent studying and children in day-care centers who have to change centers frequently or who cannot be in the day-care center at all
  • people who have been disabled (lost their ability to work) because of sick buildings and people who have been excluded from social security benefits (because the illness does not officially exist, people who have lost their ability to work don't sometimes get any income anywhere)
  • people showing symptoms in public buildings, premises and vehicles
  • people who have moved abroad to escape mold and unhealthy housing situations
This is about a group of people who have been socially isolated due to no fault of their own. This group of people is in need of an instant assistance. Mold refugees need:

A diagnosis code number, medical aid and social security

Diseased people need proper medical treatment. Symptoms caused by mold and moisture damage must be recognized as a real disease. The doctors' knowledge of this matter must be increased and the denouncing and diagnosing of diseased people as mentally ill must be stopped. People showing symptoms in sick buildings must get an official diagnosis, a diagnosis code number and through it an entitlement to sickness allowance, re-education and disability pensions when needed. Social workers and authorities must be educated so that diseased people will not be rejected when they seek help. People who have become homeless, people who have lost their property, people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill and people with severe illnesses because of sick buildings must get emergency aid when they so wish.

Emergency accommodation and mold-free homes

Heavily exposed people need instant shelter. In Finland, mold-free homes must be set up where people in the middle of a mold crisis can get protection in premises that don't cause any symptoms. Their additional exposure results in great expense to society in addition to human suffering. For the exposed, each new exposure aggravates the disease. As many of these people have had to leave all their belongings and property (it is sometimes impossible to purify material contaminated by moisture damage microbes and the toxins produced by them) they need emergency accommodation with e.g. laundry facilities, uncontaminated clothes, mattresses, blankets, pillows and lockable storage spaces.

Integration with society.

New ways are needed to provide basic social services for people who cannot visit or stay in such premises where less exposed people don't show symptoms.

For people showing symptoms at schools and educational institutions, distance learning possibilities should be developed to prevent social isolation. Also, telecommuting (telework) possibilities to perform daily business and re-education should be supported. Services should also be provided for people who cannot visit hospitals, health centres, libraries, agencies and shops. In cases where the exposure hasn't caused any serious permanent illnesses yet, the term "work place disability" could be used instead of the term "disability". It would benefit all to strive to organize job opportunities for such people. This could be implemented e.g. by developing teleworking possibilities and workplaces especially designed for people sickened by indoor air. In addition, a topical issue is how one can guarantee the livelihood for those people who have fallen seriously ill, who are disabled and whose existence is not yet recognized in our society.

Healthy buildings. Construction and renovation of buildings must be treated with the seriousness required by them. Poor construction has serious social and human consequences. Building codes and building inspection should be developed in a way such that living conditions set by Health Protection Act are achieved. New construction materials and practices must be studied sufficiently before they are introduced. Health surveillance of residences causing symptoms should be developed, because the present system doesn't succeed in addressing and eliminating health hazards and the health effects of housing. Residents, users of buildings and maintenance personnel must also be educated on how buildings will stay healthy.

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