Storm Eunice’s Leakages – Potential Health Risks for Students

By Emily Zaal and Jason Smeets

February 23, 2022. Storm Eunice, which battered much of the Netherlands last week, exposed many leakages in Groningen student houses. 9to5Groningen reports on how even the smallest leakages can be a threat to the health of tenants. 

Bailey* was casually doing laundry when after a visit to the bathroom they noticed two large cracks on the bathroom ceiling. “Apparently it had been leaking for around two hours, our entire floor of our bathroom was covered in water,” they told 9to5

Leak in Bailey’s student house. Source: Bailey

“I couldn’t even sleep in my room because there were around 10 different places that were leaking close to my window. It was impossible to sleep,” adds Mark*, who lives just outside of Groningen’s city center. The sounds were bad enough to make him sleep in his roommate’s room. “I kept hearing plop, plop, plop – every second.”

Leakages may seem like a minor inconvenience, but according to Harry Noordberger, director of Nedon – a company that fights mold and fungi in homes – leaks can cause a lot of different problems. Moisture caused by leaks can create a build up of mold and fungi, something many people underestimate. 

Leak in Leah’s student house. Source: Leah

How Does a Leak Turn Into Fungi?

“When a leak dries, the fungi will become inactive. They can remain inactive for many years, but when moisture is added, fungi can develop again,” says Noordberger. It is important to note, however, that during this time spores of mold are always present. 

“It’s quite scary,” Noordberger tells 9to5. “Oftentimes you don’t see it because it happens behind the walls.” 

According to The World Health Organization, mold and dampness are among the main causes of Asthma and other respiratory conditions. As Noordberger adds, mold and fungi can also lead to a host of other problems.

“There are quite some long-term health effects. Mold and fungi that you breathe in can get into your body and can cause concentration and breathing problems, along with sleepless nights,” explains Noordberger.

Leah*, a tenant of Wim Bulten, had been snoring more and noticed a shortness of breath during the leakage in her room. “Now that the leakage has been fixed I’ve realized that my symptoms are gone,” she says. 

Leak in Leah’s student house. Source: Leah

When you are healthy, Noordberger adds, you might not take too much notice of the effects of dampness and mold on your health. However, these fungi can have a far worse impact on someone with pre-existing conditions, or an already weak immune system. 

Groningen Landlords

According to Noordberger, a leak should be treated and looked at right away. “Prevention is the most important thing,” he tells 9to5. But not all students in Groningen have concerned landlords that help with the fight against mold. 

Bailey contacted their landlord, André Mentink, immediately after finding the leak, but his response was not what they were hoping for. “I told him to maybe do something about it because we didn’t know what to do. We could not contact anyone because it was eight p.m., almost nine. And then he just told us to call the police about five times,” says Bailey. Two days later repairmen showed up unannounced at their door long after their landlord had stopped replying to Bailey’s messages. Bailey does not know if the problem is actually fixed, but the leaking has stopped for now.

Noordberger says this attitude from landlords is a pattern that he has noticed before. “House owners are often committed to their houses, but the people that rent out houses don’t care if a student’s room is flooded. That isn’t their biggest problem,” says Noordberger. 

Leak in Leah’s student house. Source: Leah

Handling a Leak Correctly and Safely

Overall, it is important to monitor the leak closely and take preventative measures. If one’s landlord doesn’t take the proper steps to prevent and treat a leak/mold, Noordberger warns not to wipe it away with bare hands.

“Mold that gets on your skin can be very dangerous. People touch their faces around 3000 times a day, and if those fungal spores get into your lungs, you can experience a shortness of breath,” he says. 

Noordberger thinks that the government should intervene, as this might create awareness. “If people have leakage or moisture problems, the government should advise them to take precautionary measures,” he tells 9to5

“I look at molds and fungi like I look at Corona: everyone is using masks and keeping distance,” says Noordberger, “and you should also keep your distance from the molds.”

*Names have been kept due to privacy issues concerning landlords mentioned. Names are known to the 9to5Groningen team. 

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