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Tainted drywall from China is driving owners from their homes

A toxic substance is suspected of causing corrosion, health problems, and foul odors, bringing lawsuits and calls for government action.

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There was something that always bothered Rene Galvin when she walked in the front door of her new condo - an eye-watering, rotten egg smell that clung to the four walls and everything contained within them, from the furniture to her carpet and clothes.

She could never quite put her finger on the cause of the foul odor that seemed to pervade every pore. "I'd just stand there, look around and say to myself: 'One day, I'll find out whatever it is that died inside these walls'," she says.

But there were further problems to come; mirrors that corroded around the edges, drains that rusted on the baths, pitted faucets, the television, computer, dishwasher, coffee pot, telephones, and air-conditioning system that all inexplicably broke down. Even the treasured gold-dipped necklace she wore around her neck turned black. Then there were the headaches, throat and sinus troubles.

"I had no idea what was going on. I thought 'Boy, the Florida air sure is bad'," she says with a wry laugh.

Humor, though, is not something that comes easily these days when she talks about her $500,000 home in Bonita Springs, Florida, that now sits empty after it was found to contain contaminated drywall from China.

The discovery of sulfur-emitting compounds within the imported construction materials has sparked a national investigation, numerous lawsuits, and a scandal that is feared to have affected as many as 100,000 homes, a majority so far in Florida. Reparations could run into the billions of dollars.

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