Help Please

Hello everyone, I was wondering if you guys and gals would mind if I posted my problem here to see if anyone has any ideas on what is making my wife and I sick in certain areas of our home? We have had a persistent cough since we moved into this home one year ago. A week after we closed on the house the woman who lived here for the past 2+ years passed away from pulmonary fibrosis that her husband said she had no knowledge of before she moved in. He said she also had a cough after she moved into this home.

There are two rooms on the first floor of our house that have a strange odor that after about ten minutes will irritate our throats and make us cough. The longer we stay in those rooms the longer the throat irritation will last, sometimes several days. One of the rooms is the family room that is quite open and attaches to a breakfast area that leads to the back patio. It also branches off to an open kitchen. This room is tiled and has a strange smell that I can’t really describe but if I had to guess I would say there is something coming up from the slab below the tile. It seems a little humid even though the humidity in the room ranges from 45% to 55% depending on the outside. The other room is a downstairs bedroom that has new carpeting (9mos) over a bare slab. This room has a very strong odor that is definitely coming from the slab. I can also smell the same odor in both of the garages.

We bought a 4700 SqFt two story home last March in West Palm Beach FL that was built in 2006. I have had the drywall checked by several inspectors, contractors, and various other people and it is not Chinese drywall. I did find that the windows were leaking due to poor design since the manufacturer put all the screws on the outside frames of the windows and they were leaking from the screw holes and from the caulking that was cracking. This lead to a slight mold issue that was found on the back of the baseboards on the lower level so we had the drywall removed from all the outer walls of the lower level 3 feet up from the floor and re mediated. All the windows and cracks on the out side of the house have been sealed as well. This was completed in June 2011.

My question is, does anyone know of the proper people or company to contact to diagnose the problem? I have had two different companies test the air for VOC’s and mold and everything has come back clean. I had two inspectors come out and say that they can smell the problem but have no idea what it is. I have been to many doctors over the past year and spending a lot of money trying to figure out what is causing this but no one can figure it out. My business partner bought an identical house 3 doors down from mine at the same time and his house does not have any of the symptoms that mine does except the window issue. My wife and I want to try to have kids this year and I am very scared to bring a child into this home until I find out what is going on. If anyone can give me some advice or help me diagnose the problem I would be forever grateful. I would be happy to send pictures or answer any questions.

Thank you for your time and I am sorry if I posted this in the wrong discussion.
God Bless,

I wonder if some type of cleaner, particularly an acid based cleaner, was ever applied to the concrete? Having the concrete slab sealed might be an option if you believe that’s where it’s coming from.

Wow I really don’t have any ideas of what may be causing this but just wanted to say I’m sorry for what youre going through. Additionally I think after all the folks that have come out to look at the home and haven’t figured it out, you may have to make a decision based on what’s best for you and your wifes health over anything else. You may have reached the proverbial fork in the road Chad. Hopefully someone can help you with this. Take care and don’t procrastinate making that decision if it actually comes to that.


what was the `lot before they built this house

Did you have someone come in to track the problem to the source. This is done by a Certified Environmental Investigator. I have done this to determine where the smell was coming through on may occasions and you will need to search for someone doing this in your area. He will need access to a P-traker and provide proof of clients he has solved problems with. It does sound like something biological to cause the difficulties you are describing and this is a quick way to rule this out or in.

Did you buy anything new when you moved in, bed, cabinets, pillows, carpeting anything like that?

@Vince Santos - I bleached the concrete in the back bedroom and put a binz primer on it before the new carpet was laid. There are some cracks in the slab in that room so I believe that the smell is coming through those cracks. But I really believe that the concrete it’s self is the source of the smell in that room.

@Dennis R. Goudreau - I looked the lot up on Google Earth and it was just a empty area that had some trees and the pond in the middle that still exists. There was not anything that was built there previous and there were no access roads to the land.

@Jeff Merritt - All the furniture in that room is from our old house and we have had it for 6 years.

@KEVIN WOOD - I searched Google for an Environmental Investigator in Palm Beach County and did not find anything. Do you know a easier way to find one?

I would love to fix this problem and not have to move, my wife would be devastated as this is our dream home that we have been waiting for. But it means nothing if it makes us sick. As long as we stay out of those rooms we are fine, I stay upstairs most of the time I’m home now.

contact a local university biology department and see if they would be interested in " a project" ?

Hi Chad;
Would you mind if I came by and took a look?

Not sure if I can help you if you can’t find one. I can put your story out on LinkedIn IAQ investigator for this area if you would like that way everyone can see the problem and someone in your area may have previous experience with it.

Hi Kevin, that would be fine. I would appreciate any help I can get.
Thank You,

Sent to the best in your AREA Chad Williams.

An Idustrial Hygienist with experience in Building Diagnostics and Air Quality.

Chad I was given this # for you to call.

Hey Kevin,

Get in touch with John Lapotaire - he is here on LinkedIn as well.

(407) 383-9459

He is one of the best in Florida and may be able to help you!

There is one more possibility. Is it possible that the proper ground barrier was not put down under the concrete? I’ve had that happen here where the moisture from the ground will soak into the concrete making it severely wet after every rain. If there is a liquified animal under the floor and it wicks up into the concrete, the smell could be overwhelming. Would you describe the smell as something like methane gas, mouldy or musty or like rotten flesh? This could make all the difference in the world as to where to look and how to remedy the problem.

Thank You Marvin for coming out and looking at my home. After looking at the grading around the house we are going to build it up a bit as it is currently too level or pitching back into the house. After that is done I will let you guys know if anything changes. Thank you for all the help so far.

Good luck if you think a grade elevation change will solve all the problems that you have suggested…

Have you (or your wife) completed any medical tests that would confirm your systemic condition to be resultant from environmental conditions?

I have been to multiple ENT’s and Allergist’s and none of them have been able to conclude what is the cause. I also own a doctor’s office and have 2 dermatologists, and a Internist in the family that are puzzled by our issues.

It might be a long shot, but was the house pre-treated for termites? Some pesticides used in termite treatments have had a pretty nasty history of causing illness to humans. Some are odorless, some are not. While the problematic chemicals have been banned, there’s no saying that there couldn’t be problems with current treatments. It’d be good to see if your house was pre-treated, if so, with what chemical. And then do a little research from there.