Business

Fallout continues from tainted drywall

MANATEE — Workers removed tainted drywall from homes in Heritage Harbour on Wednesday, but the problem is no longer limited to East Manatee.

Grant Reid moved his family out of their home in the Crystal Lakes subdivision in Palmetto after learning that drywall manufactured by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. was installed there.

Ever since the Reid family moved into the Taylor Morrison-built home in 2006, they smelled a strange odor that they attributed to new construction.

But when they discovered that copper wiring had blackened and air conditioning coils needed to be replaced, they suspected defective drywall.

Although he doesn’t know if the drywall has caused his 2-year-old son Nickolas to suffer respiratory problems since birth, he decided to leave the home on the advice of a pediatrician.

What he does know is that photos taken during the construction show that Knauf drywall is installed there.

“It’s just extremely upsetting that this product made its way not only into my country but into my home,” Reid said.

Knauf Tianjin was among several brands of drywall imported into the United States from China in 2006 during a drywall shortage caused by the housing boom and reconstruction after hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Of the Chinese imported drywall, only about 20 percent was manufactured by Knauf Tianjin, according to a statement released by the company.

In late 2006, complaints surfaced about an odor in the drywall. After discovering that rock from a certain mine, which had been supplied to many manufacturers, caused the odor, the company stopped using that material, the release said.

Knauf Tianjin also has been looking into whether counterfeit drywall made its way into the United States after receiving reports of Knauf drywall showing a Mexico address on it.

But the company, which said it is focused on investigating the health and safety issues associated with the drywall, maintains that the substances in the drywall are no greater than the amounts in the air, soil, marshes or the ocean.

Knauf Tianjin hired the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health to investigate any health risks.

The levels of substances tested in the air were well below what is allowed for lifetime standards of air quality for several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, said Phillip Goad, senior toxicologist.

“None of the levels are high enough to be considered a public health concern,” Goad said.

Although Goad has not been able to see testing methods used by another company, Environ International, he said the results are consistent with his company’s testing. Environ International was hired by Lennar Homes to test air samples of homes in Heritage Harbour.

Lennar said it has discovered that at least 23 homes in the neighborhood were built using the drywall imported from China. On Wednesday, at least two homes were gutted to remove drywall on Montauk Point in Heritage Harbour.

Taylor Morrison and Knauf Tianjin have been named the defendants in a class-action lawsuit filed in Sarasota on Monday. The lawsuit was filed by Darren Inverso, an attorney with Sarasota firm Norton, Hammersley, Lopez & Skokos, on behalf of Kristin Culliton, a Lakewood Ranch resident.

Culliton, who was formerly employed by Taylor Morrison, has been unable to live in her Greenbrook Terrace home for about a year. Taylor Morrison, which has declined to comment on pending litigation, released a statement pledging high-quality customer service and building materials.

“Although Taylor Morrison does not comment on the details of pending litigation, we are confident that we are thoroughly addressing the particular issue at hand by implementing an investigation in the matter and taking steps to achieve customer satisfaction. This included air quality testing, the results of which met health and safety standards,” the statement said.

Jessica Klipa, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7906.

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