The acrid odor from behind their walls at times made them sick, and something seemed to be etching their chandeliers, piping and jewelry.
Cynthia Scott said she suffered nosebleeds while pregnant with her son, now 2, who had to be rushed to the emergency room twice during coughing fits.
Everyone in the family of five, including two older children, suffered headaches.
Then they came to suspect the cause: Chinese drywall. They had it inspected and moved out of the Brookhaven home they bought for $231,000 in 2006.
“I think I’ve cried every tear I could cry,” said Scott, a paralegal. Her husband, Jonathan, is a sales representative. “It’s been very devastating.”Now, the Scotts have joined about 2,000 others who are suing in federal court for compensation from the companies that made, distributed and built with the wallboard — imported during the rush of construction in the housing bubble and after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.The most recent data show as many as 20 reports of suspected Chinese drywall in
Since moving from their home in December, the Scotts pay $1,200 in rent each month. For now, they’ve stopped paying their $2,200 monthly mortgage payment, which they’re trying to negotiate down.
After the housing bust, their home is valued at a little more than $128,000.And the Scotts said Chinese drywall gutted the value further. It would cost upwards of $100,000 to tear the house down to the studs, replace the drywall, wiring, plumbing and other items needed to clear up the problem. That doesn’t include rebuilding.They said corrosive wallboard caused their air conditioner’s copper coils to blacken and the refrigerant to constantly leak — telltale signs that the gypsum in their drywall came from
So far, the Scotts are the only confirmed case of Chinese drywall in Brevard, according to the property appraiser’s office. Several others have inquired, staff members said, but no one has applied yet for the adjustment to their taxes because of bad drywall that the appraiser offered in October.
The Scotts took the first step by signing a form declaring their intent to rebuild and reoccupy the house because of Chinese drywall. They can get the house dropped to salvage value, about $4,000 to $5,000, to save them money on taxes until the matter is resolved, Cynthia Scott said.
Why it’s a problem
As of January, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had received more than 2,800 reports from residents who suspect that their health symptoms or corrosion of metal parts in their homes are linked to drywall made in
As of Feb. 1, there were more than 660 cases from 30 counties reported to the Florida Department of Health, including the 20 in Brevard.
But the problem could be much bigger, based on the more than 400 million pounds imported into the state since 1999, said Rob Crangle, a minerals commodity specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
A 2,000-square-foot house uses, on average, about 16,000 pounds of drywall, so as many as 25,000 homes in
Much of the gypsum produced in the
Most gypsum imported into the
The problematic drywall is thought to trace back to a few mines in
Owners describe a “rotten egg” sulfur smell and a slew of chronic symptoms, including respiratory irritation, headaches, sinus and eye pain and nosebleeds. But almost a quarter of the homes have no odor.
It wasn’t long after the Scotts bought their home that they noticed a strong acidic smell.
“We always smelled something in the one bathroom ever since we moved into the house,” Scott said.
They had their air conditioner repaired three times in two years. The last time, a repairman found the blackened copper coils in their unit. He asked if they knew about Chinese drywall.
They found similar tainted copper piping throughout the house.Scott said her family hired an inspector they found on the Internet who didn’t seem to know much about the problem but charged almost $300, telling them they may have issues with air-quality control.They got a second opinion from Mark Levy of Associated Environmental Consulting Group of
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, co-sponsored the Drywall Safety Act of 2009, which further researches bad drywall and extends an interim ban on importation.
“There’s so many unknowns right now that it’s hard to get your arms around it,” Posey said. “This stuff is like a time bomb. They don’t all go off at the same time.”
In December, the U.S. House passed a nonbinding resolution co-sponsored by Posey to encourage banks and mortgage service providers to delay foreclosures without penalty on payments to home mortgages.
But that’s not much solace for the Scotts. For now, it’s a sit-and-wait situation for them and thousands of others as the legal system takes over.On Friday, the first test case in lawsuits over Chinese drywall began in U.S. District Court in
Bill Cash, the
The timeline and outcome are uncertain, he said, given some of the drywall companies’ ties to the Chinese government.“It will depend on if we can bring enough of these defendants to the table,” Cash said.Scott said her family lives paycheck to paycheck.“I have to trust in my faith and trust the God I serve is going to come through for me,” she said. “I also have faith in our legal system.”