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Formaldehyde Dangers Force Homeowners Out

By Karen Morfitt

FIRESTONE, Colo. (CBS4) - Several Colorado families are being told to leave their brand new homes over concerns of formaldehyde poisoning.

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CBS4 learned Wednesday that homeowners in Parker, Commerce City, Aurora and Firestone are impacted.

Chris Clouser closed on his home in the Barefoot Lake subdivision in Firestone in June.

"I was in there for about a month and then they came in and said 'I think we've got a problem,'" he said.

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After the inspection by his builder, Richmond American Homes, Clouser learned the problem was possible formaldehyde exposure.

According to CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida, in the short term the chemical can cause headaches, chronic respiratory infections and constant fatigue. Long term exposure could lead to cancer.

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"They said, 'Look, go stay in a hotel and we'll cover you for the hotel they did the proper precaution right away,'" Clouser said.

The problem is in the floor. Weyerhaeuser, one of the world's largest lumber distributors, issued a recall on their i-joists coated with flak jacket protection. It is applied to enhance fire resistance, but instead it's causing formaldehyde -- commonly used in pressed lumber -- to leak out.

Construction defect attorney Chad Johnson says in just one week, he has been contacted by a nearly a dozen local homeowners.

"Some of the concerns are definitely where am I going to stay, because when the builders advised them to move out they weren't initially assisting them with alternative housing," Johnson said.

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Outside of finding a new place to live, Johnson says homeowners have additional concerns about how this will impact the value of their home, whether or not proposed fixes will be safe and how long repairs might take.

"We don't have timeline for how long it will take, homeowners are just getting generic information," he said.

In a statement Weyerhaeuser says "We've been working directly with homeowners and builders to understand each unique situation, and we are absolutely committed to making this right for everyone who is affected."

In the interim, families are left looking at the builders for answers.

"I think there's a lot of uncertainty from everyone and that's probably the biggest part of it," Clouser said.

Full statement from Richmond American homes

In early July 2017, a manufacturer of joists informed Richmond American Homes of Colorado of an issue in the manufacturing process for certain joists installed in some homes built by Richmond American in Colorado during 2017. We have been informed that the coating on the joists may be emitting formaldehyde, causing an odor detectable by and allergic reactions in a limited number of individuals. The manufacturer is implementing a remediation or replacement program at its cost, designed to address and resolve this issue as soon as possible. Richmond American has elected to replace the joists in its homes.

Most of the Richmond American homes impacted by this issue have not yet been delivered to its customers. However, Richmond American Homes of Colorado has offered alternative accommodations to consumers who have already closed on an impacted house.

Full statement from Weyerhaeuser

Our top priority is to do the right thing by taking care of every homeowner affected by this situation. We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and remediation has already been completed in several homes. Most affected homes are not yet occupied. In the limited number of homes that are occupied, we have advised homeowners to refrain from using their basements until the remediation is complete. For those who choose to stay in temporary housing until the issue is resolved, we are of course making arrangements for them and fully covering the cost. We have been working directly with homeowners and builders to understand each unique situation, and we are absolutely committed to making this right for everyone who is affected.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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