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Silent killer? Couple believes toxic mold led to the deaths of 2 babies

Protest planned Wednesday outside Inkster Housing Commission
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Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 05:49:29-04

INKSTER (WXYZ) — The parents of Kivonni and Khalani White are devastated and convinced that what caused their deaths has been growing inside some of the apartments at Canterbury Estates, low income public housing.

"After my son died, I knew. I knew it was mold," said Shavontae Melchor. "I had a feeling it was still mold."

Kivonni was just three weeks old when he died on August 21, 2018, inside the family's apartment on Harriet Street and Canterbury Estates.

Shavontae said her baby boy's cause of death couldn't be explained and was listed as sudden infant death syndrome.

Soon after Kivonni died, the housing commission moved the family to another unit in the very same building.

"I moved out of the first apartment and they moved me to another one filled with mold," said Shavontae who also told 7 Action News that she complained about the smell of mold and the mold itself while in their first apartment and not long after they moved into the next unit.

The family says they discovered that next to their new apartment was a vacant unit that was filled with mold and it spread to their apartment.

And four days ago, the couple's 11-month-old daughter, Khalani White, also died.

"We just woke up and she was dead," said Shavontae. "She had just started getting a runny nose, but, no, she wasn't sick. Just like my son, they seemed fine."

"Mold had everything to do with this," said the children's father, Tyrell White.

A day after Khalani died, the couple hired Absolute Labs INC. to test samples of the mold in their apartment. And visible mold on the ceiling of their kitchen was determined to be "Chaetomium 70-80%" and "Toxigenic."

According to Mold-Help.org, Chaetomium is a "mold commonly found in water-damaged homes and buildings. Chaetomium has a cotton-like texture and usually changes colors from white to grey to brown and eventually to black over time. Chaetomium mold is usually found in a damp or leaking roof, basement or stink and may be recognizable by its musty odor. Chaetomium mold causes health effects such as skin and nail infections.
In some cases, it can produce mycotoxins that are especially dangerous to individuals with compromised immune systems."

The results of an autopsy on Khalani are still pending.

"They have to be held accountable," said Trische' Duckworth, founder of Survivors Speak and one of several local activists who joined the couple and other family members in a protest outside the Inkster Housing Commission office Tuesday morning.

Paul Bollinger, Executive Director of the Inkster Housing Commission told 7 Action News that they are investigating the situation and he couldn't comment any further.

The couple says Bollinger put them up in a hotel for now and they are working on obtaining a voucher for Section 8 housing.

They have set up a GoFundMe account to help them with costs for Khalani's funeral and money to move into a safe place. To donate, click here.

Family members and local activists are planning another protest Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. outside the Inkster Housing Commission offices.