Formaldehyde forcing out new homeowners

AURORA, Colo. -- The American Dream is on hold for Gary and Carolyn Cooper in Aurora. A cancer causing chemical has forced them and hundreds of homeowners nationwide out of new homes.

"I couldn't basically see because there was a constant burning and running of my eyes," said Gary Cooper, describing what it was like to live in his new house. He and his wife Carolyn closed June 30th on their home on South Grand Baker Street in Aurora.

On July 20th, a representative from their builder, Shea Homes, delivered devastating news.

"She handed me a letter saying the joists where omitting formaldehyde," remembered a shocked Carolyn Cooper. "I said you have to be kidding."

Now law firms across metro Denver are lining up to sue Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser and local home builders because of a formaldehyde coating used on floor joists.

The coating was intended to be a fire retardant but Weyerhaeuser admits the formaldehyde in its wood product gasses off a vapor unsafe for any home.

The Coopers have been living with their two sons in a hotel since July 20th. Weyerhaeueser is paying for the lodging but has yet to tell the Coopers when it will be safe for them to move back home.

"I`m concerned we will never get another home. I don`t know how long Shae and Weyehaueser will drag this process out or fight us through this," said Carolyn Cooper.

The Coopers have hired attorney Mari Perczek from the Burg Simpson Law Firm to represent them. "It`s a complete mess. This product was not properly tested in advance and it has created just a nightmare for these homeowners," said Perczek.

Perczek told the Problem Solvers she plans to sue on behalf of at least a dozen homeowners in the near future. FOX31 has already discovered lawsuits filed by other lawyers across the metro  area.

"It`s a known carcinogen to start with, long term exposure has been known to cause nose and throat cancer ," said Perczek.

An industrial hygienist hired by the Coopers found formaldehyde levels double what they should be in the kitchen and in the basement an astounding "30 times higher than Weyerhaeuser's stated post-remedial goal of 80 ppb" (parts per billion) according to a Quest environmental report.

"My two boys have asthma, I'm very concerned," Carolyn Cooper said.

Weyerhauser is offering two solutions, either a special spray that chemically converts the coating into a non-formaldehyde solid or ripping out the floor joists and replacing them.

Despite a transferable lifetime warrant for the spray, the Coopers prefer a full replacement. But Weyerhaueser is leaving the decision up to the builders, not the homeowners.

"We have to have something that is environmental friendly, that`s totally clean, that's what we paid for. That`s what we expect Shea to deliver," insisted Gary Cooper.

Shea Homes won't tell the Problem Solvers what remediation option it's going with, nor is the builder saying when it will happen.

Weyerhaeuser said it expects to spend $50 to $60 million to take care of customers adding, "Remediation is already scheduled, in progress, or complete in more than 1,000 homes."

But the Coopers' house isn't among them. They still have no idea when they'll be able to unpack all the belongings stored in their garage.

Weyerhaueser admits there are at least 2,200 homes nationwide affected, though many were under construction and not yet occupied when the issue was discovered.

Attorneys in Denver said, they believe more than 100 homes across the Front Range are affected involving a dozen builders in a dozen different cities.