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Homeowners want K. Hovnanian to buy-back toxic home
Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Palm Beach County woman says her dream house makes her sick
"The builder knows there is this mold in my house, he knows there are these toxins, he knows that the mold in the house matches the mold in my blood, but he won't do a damn thing," said Amaral, 47. "All I want him to do is buy my house. Let me and my family move on so I can get a clean house."  The Amarals first alerted the builder to their mold problem in January, meeting personally with officials and sending e-mails requesting help.

Palm Beach County woman says her dream house makes her sick

By Nancy L. Othón
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted July 31 2006

 
WEST LAKE WORTH -- After months of headaches, nausea and occasional seizures, Andrea Amaral abandoned her custom-built dream home, blaming the mold that grew in it for her medical problems.

The tastefully designed home in the Savannah Estates neighborhood on U.S. 441 had no catastrophic water damage. No flooding, no hurricane damage.


But about a year after moving in, the family discovered mold growing on some air conditioning vents, a smoke detector in Amaral's bedroom, ducts and in the attic.

Now the Amarals are battling the builder, Town & Country Homes Florida, a K. Hovnanian Co., in an attempt to break free of the home.

"The builder knows there is this mold in my house, he knows there are these toxins, he knows that the mold in the house matches the mold in my blood, but he won't do a damn thing," said Amaral, 47. "All I want him to do is buy my house. Let me and my family move on so I can get a clean house."

The Amarals first alerted the builder to their mold problem in January, meeting personally with officials and sending e-mails requesting help.

Tim Kelly, president of the local Town & County division in Boynton Beach, said the company is investigating.

"Research is still being conducted by a third-party consultant who is an expert in that field," Kelly said. "Just because a claim is made doesn't mean it's substantiated or it's a builder responsibility."

According to the Amarals, Town & Country previously offered to clean the house, but declined to pay the roughly $20,000 the Amarals spent on lodging, environmental testing and living expenses.

"I don't know how it would be possible to make this house livable for my wife," Steve Amaral said.

Andrea Amaral and her family lived in a Hampton Inn for nine weeks until she left for the Bahamas for several weeks this summer for some doctor-recommended ocean air.

She and her daughters are now staying at her mother's, while Steve Amaral, unaffected by the mold, stayed home.

The Amarals moved into the $416,000 home in June 2004.

Less than eight months later, Amaral began to get sick.

She also experienced seizures, long after a prior seizure problem she experienced after a 2002 car crash had been stabilized.

Steve Amaral is confident the house was improperly insulated, leading to the mold build-up, while Town & Country officials say the culprit is likely the air conditioning unit, he said.

"It appears the Amarals have a significant problem in their home," said the Amaral's attorney Stephen Cohen.

"Testing shows that, and Ms. Amaral has certainly proven to be ill as a result of the exposure."

One of Andrea Amaral's doctors said Amaral's mold allergy testing is so high, it suggests she is suffering from what doctors term "non-specific building related illness."

Symptoms can be as minor as a runny nose. Andrea Amaral's symptoms are much more complex, said Dr. Harold Robbins, an expert in occupational and environmental medicine based in Deerfield Beach.

"Whereas most people may not develop problems, she is a more high-risk individual," Robbins said. "The levels of some of the mold that they found in the air in the home from what I understand in reviewing the records, was pretty high."

High levels of several types of mold were found in Andrea Amaral's blood, according to her test records.


Andrea Amaral now receives weekly nutritional therapy intravenously to help stabilize her immune system and she'll be treated for her mold allergy when she is healthy enough, Robbins said.

Her neurologist, Harold Friend, said Amaral's headaches "significantly interfered" with her life.

Friend said when he attributed the headaches to the mold, he did so by making a "diagnosis of exclusion."

"We ruled out everything else," Friend said. "The thing that demonstrates it's the primary cause is that when she left the premises, she was much better."

Kelly said no other Savannah Estates homeowner has reported mold problems.

It's unlikely that the company will buy back their home because that's not normally done, he said.

"I take this very personally and very seriously and we are responding as expeditiously as we can," he said.

Nancy L. Othón can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 561-243-6633.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-pmoldhouse31jul31,0,6907014.story?page=1

 
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