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Lennar Says Chinese Drywall Not to Blame for Problems in California Homes

Sep 18, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Some homeowners in the California desert town of Indio are experiencing the foul odors and corrosion problems seen in  homes built with Chinese drywall. But according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, their builder - Miami-based Lennar Homes - is insisting that defective Chinese drywall is not to blame.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), homeowners in 26 states and the District of Columbia have filed 1,311 complaints with the agency over Chinese drywall.  While the majority - 997 - have come from Florida,  a few have come from California homeowners.  Gases emitted from the drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory an sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

As we've reported previously, Lennar Homes has acknowledged that about 400 homes it built in Florida have issues that could be related to Chinese drywall. But the company has maintained that the material has not been found in its homes outside of the state.

But according to the Herald-Tribune, owners of some Lennar Homes in Indio are experiencing problems similar to what has been seen in Florida. These problems include odors and corrosion, as well as respiratory and sinus symptoms.

Lennar says it has ruled out Chinese drywall as the source, following two rounds of testing at one home, and inspection of several others in the Indian Palms Country Club.  But according to the Herald-Tribune, Lennar's tests did not actually involve testing any drywall.   The owner of the home tested said Environ International, a company hired by Lennar, used equipment to test for formaldehyde and took wood samples from the home.  Lennar would not share its test results, and would only say that no chemicals were detected at levels high enough to cause concern.  

While Lennar has ruled out Chinese drywall as a cause of the problems seen in Indio, others have not.   Recently,  tests conducted by a construction consulting firm found that corrosion did occur when copper wire was sealed in a jar with a sample of drywall from Indio.  

According to the Herald-Tribune, formaldehyde can cause the type of  corrosion seen in the test.  If formaldehyde was the culprit, it would need to be determined if  the drywall itself was made with the chemical, or whether the drywall was cross-contaminated by another material in the home that was emitting formaldehyde fumes, the Herald-Tribune said.

It wouldn't be unusual to find that other Chinese-manufactured construction products - particularly fiberboard and particleboard - contained formaldehyde. According to the Herald-Tribune, imports of construction materials made with the chemical spiked about a decade ago  when other countries began setting tough standards for such products, but the U.S. did not.

According to the Herald-Tribune, Lennar would not answer questions about the use of imported wood products in the Indio home it tested, and would not comment on formaldehyde. However, the company now plans to test drywall in that home.

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