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Metal damage and nosebleeds in a new Lennar house

Drywall from China was used to build the Florida home. Hundreds of U.S. homeowners have similar complaints.

July 04, 2009|Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Emily McCarthy thought the foul smell in her new Florida town house was coming from Samson, the family dog.

McCarthy and her husband gave the English Springer bath after bath. But the stink wouldn't go away.

And that wasn't all.

Electrical outlets turned black. The air conditioner went on the blink. Then McCarthy, 33, started waking up with a bloody nose.

It turns out the home was built with imported Chinese drywall. Similar troubles have been reported by hundreds of homeowners, from Florida to California. Most of the complaints stem from homes built in 2006, at the tail end of the last housing boom, when U.S. builders had to import drywall to meet demand.

The cheaper imported drywall might have shaved hundreds of dollars from the $335,000 price the McCarthys paid for their three-bedroom home built by Lennar Corp. If it did, it was hardly a savings.

Soon after they moved in, McCarthy's jewelry started to tarnish. By 2007, faucets, mirrors and air conditioning coils had to be replaced.

"The drywall was actually eating into the metal behind our mirrors," McCarthy said. "Lennar replaced the mirror three times. We just thought the metal was reacting to the glue in the mirror. We never connected the dots."

Last February Lennar moved the family -- McCarthy was seven months pregnant then -- into a rental just a few blocks away. The nosebleeds stopped. The family no longer needed scented candles, and Samson no longer needed extra baths.

Miami-based Lennar is rebuilding their home, but the company has been sued by other homeowners, and it in turn has filed lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers of drywall.

Lennar is a major builder in California, which the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says is one of 13 states where residents believe their health symptoms or damage to metals in their homes are linked to Chinese drywall.

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nathan.olivarezgiles@ latimes.com

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