Toxic Drywall Rotting Houses, Sickening Occupants in Florida

rotting mirror photo

Corroded mirror in relatively new Lennar home in Sarasota

In some new Florida subdivisions, the houses are corroding before their owners's eyes. According to Aaron Kessler in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

Residents of Montauk Point have seen their air-conditioners fail on a regular basis -- so often that the presence of a white HVAC repair truck became a running joke in the neighborhood. Metal within their homes corroded and turned black: piping, electrical wiring, even silver jewelry. Electronics also began to fail and short-circuit. Residents say they have gone through multiple televisions, computers and cable boxes. Light switches stopped working altogether, or only intermittently. "I'm on my third TV," said homeowner Dan Tibbetts. "Everything just dies."

And then there are the health effects, which the Tibbetts describe:

toxic drywall family photo

Florida family from house with toxic drywall, Herald Tribune
Dan and Janet Tibbetts bought the home at 7111 Montauk Point Crossing in 2006, moving in during August 2007.

Almost immediately they noticed a foul, chemical-like odor, but chalked it up to the house being new.

"We figured it's a new house, it would have a little smell and just need to be aired out for awhile," Tibbetts said. "We figured it would go away."

But it only got stronger. The family began having breathing problems, sore throats and then occasional nosebleeds, as did their son. Even their dog, a two-year-old dachshund, began acting strangely.

"He began throwing up, he didn't want to eat," Tibbetts said. "We thought, what is going on here?"

As would be expected, the builder, Lennar, denies that there is anything wrong, or that if there is, they will fix it. "Company officials said they stand by an earlier statement that the drywall is not a health risk and that Lennar is responding promptly to owners."

According to the South Florida Business Journal, After previous complaints, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. acknowledged "sulphur odors could be associated with mined gypsum rock" and ordered up some tests that showed no sulphur vapors of concern. A consultant hired by homeowners questioned their methodology:

The consultant, Michael Foreman of Foreman & Associates in Sarasota, said in response to a reporter's description: "There was no one living in those houses. The air conditioners weren't turned on. They ran them before anyone was living there. The houses weren't even complete. They might as well have conducted them outside."

The Herald Tribune has another story calling it "the Drywall Mystery"

Drywall, ubiquitous in homes and buildings, has a core made from gypsum, which can be mined or synthesized from industrial processes. To our knowledge, properly manufactured drywall is not believed to pose a health risk except to work crews, who can be overexposed to dust when cutting it.

china study pdf image

But is it really such a mystery that a chemist can't figure out with some analysis? Here is a hypothetical example that comes from a quick google search, which turned up a scientific paper about fluorgypsum, a byproduct of hydrofluoric acid production. Because it is a pollutant and there is a lot of it, the study notes:

How to extensively dispose and change waste into avail is a very important and exigent task. The demand for cement is increasing in China, reasonably and efficiently to expoit and use fluorgypsum as a substitute for natural gypsum can not only save the resources of natural gypsum and lower the cost of cement, but also comprehensive treatment fluor-gypsum wastes this benefits economically and social.


Fluorogypsum is a kind of acid substance, which can erode equipment. These disadvantageous factors restrict the application of fluorgypsum in cement.

I am not a chemist, and have no idea if anyone is making cheaper drywall by substituting anything for natural gypsum, the main component in what is called, sensibly, gypsum board.

But Lennar must have enough empty houses in Florida that they can move these people somewhere else before they find out what is in the drywall that shouldn't be, instead of just denying it.

More in TreeHugger about tainted products:
Why A Little Melamine- Tainted Food Is Good For Us :
Update on Tainted Pet Food: We Are Next
Got Melamine? 53000 Chinese Children Did - In Their Milk :
Tainted Pet Food: We Could Be Next.

Toxic Drywall Rotting Houses, Sickening Occupants in Florida
In some new Florida subdivisions, the houses are corroding before their owners's eyes. According to Aaron Kessler in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

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