Rotting Drywall Fouls South Florida Homes
TAMPA - Joining the wave of toys painted with lead-based paint and the tainted infant formula, drywall from China is now raising a concern.
Florida officials are looking into a smattering of complaints from homeowners in South and Southwest Florida who say their walls stink and that some electrical and plumbing components are failing.
Drywall is the board used to make interior walls. Usually, it is manufactured in the United States, but a housing boom between 2004 and 2006 and a need for construction materials after Hurricane Katrina prompted builders to buy from China.
The Florida Department of Health has received 16 complaints from Pinellas, Manatee, Martin, St. Lucie and Lee counties, and is looking into the matter, officials said.
"We have some evidence that people are experiencing symptoms as result of this, but we have not confirmed the cause," said Bob Kallotte, environmental specialist with Sarasota County's health department. "We are taking this very seriously."
"We haven't had any complaints about that," said Wayne Francis, director of Hillsborough County's building services division.
The wallboard also is being blamed for corrosion of metal components. Air-conditioning evaporator coils, which typically last a decade or more, are corroding and failing in homes only a couple of years old. Pipes and wiring also may be deteriorating.
Miami-based Lennar Corp. conducted an investigation after homebuyers complained about smells and coil corrosion. Lennar hired an environmental consulting firm and found that independent contractors installed the product without Lennar's knowledge.
In a statement, Darrin McMurray, Lennar's Southwest Division president, said the Chinese product was used in a small percentage of homes built from November 2005 to November 2006.
The company has begun removing the drywall and conducting other repairs in some of the homes.
*Information from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune was used in this report.