Study: Tainted drywall not a health risk (with video link)

MANATEE — Drywall that was manufactured in China and installed in homes by developer Lennar Corp. has emitted sulfur gases, which are “capable of affecting” copper air conditioning evaporator coils, according to a study prepared for the builder.

But the levels of sulfur gases are not high enough to pose a health risk to residents, according to a report from Environ International, an environmental consulting firm hired by Lennar to conduct the tests.

Air samples, two from inside the homes and one from outside, were taken in one-liter bags and shipped to an independent lab, Air Toxics, Ltd.

Video: As evidence of tainted Chinese drywall crops up in new homes in the area, we spent an afternoon with Michael Foreman of Foreman & Associates, Inc., a construction consulting company based in Sarasota as he visits two homes looking for evidence of tainted drywall at Crystal Lake and Fairways at Imperial Lakewoods, two developments located eastof Interstate 75 in Manatee County.

Carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide were found among air samples of 79 affected homes. Another gas, hydrogen sulfide, which can be a product of the breakdown of other sulfide gases, was not found in the air samples. But in past studies, carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and hydrogen sulfide were all related to emissions from the Chinese drywall, the report said.

Since the maximum levels of gases in the homes are found to be below environmental exposures for guidelines for the Environmental Protection Agency and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, there are no adverse health outcomes, the study said.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., manufacturer of the Chinese drywall, also hired Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC. to conduct an air quality investigation in November 2006 after complaints of an odor from the drywall.

Phillip Goad, senior toxicologist for Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC., found that air samples were not at levels to cause a public health concern.

The sulfur compounds were found in samples associated with Knauf drywall. The levels measured in the homes are lower than those found in the human breath and other natural sources, including ocean water.

“It’s important to know sulfur is an important element in life and in the body,” Goad said.

The maximum carbon disulfide level found in any sample was 14 parts per billion, “well below” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concentration at 220 parts per billion established for the general public including sensitive individuals, according to Goad’s summary of findings.

State officials have logged more than 50 reports of possible drywall contamination around the state.

In Manatee County, neighborhoods reporting the problem include Heritage Harbour, Lakewood Ranch and Crystal Lakes in Palmetto.

Lennar Corp., developer of Heritage Harbour in East Manatee, has been relocating homeowners from Montauk Point Crossing.

About 23 homes were found to have reported the problem in the neighborhood.

It’s likely that many other developers have the same problem with the drywall, said Michael Foreman, a construction consultant for Foreman & Associates. His clients live in several neighborhoods in Manatee and Sarasota counties and he expects that few builders will not have problems from the drywall.

“It’s getting much, much bigger than everybody thinks,” he said.

Nancy and Richard Nelson, who are residents of Fairways at Imperial Lakewoods in Palmetto, have called on Foreman to look into the possibility of having tainted drywall.

Their home has shown the symptoms of having the problem since they moved there in 2006. It began with a strong odor in the home, which they attributed to a new construction smell. Appliances, including the dryer, microwave, TV, computers and air conditioning coils, have experienced mechanical failure or have had to be replaced.

A copper sculpture of a breastplate, which had been shown at Manatee ArtCenter, has turned black.

“It had been a continual thing. But I thought it was faulty equipment and it had to be replaced,” Nancy Nelson said.

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

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