Rolling Hills Drive in central Carson City looks like an average, all-American neighborhood, but some residents fear drainage problems have caused unhealthy fungi to grow in their homes.
As many as 60 people may be affected, and a lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial next year, according to Reno attorney Robert Maddox.
Homeowner George Goldman bought one of the houses for his daughter, Teraisa, and her three children about three years ago.
In her mid-30s and otherwise healthy, she is a writer by trade. A one-time gymnast and track runner, she said she developed symptoms in December 1999, one year after she moved into the house.
She now has chest pain seven days a week in addition to hearing loss, vertigo and sinus problems. She has numbness in her fingers and toes and last winter developed serious bronchial problems. Thus far, physicians haven't offered a firm diagnosis and she said it feels like she's slowly being poisoned.
One of her daughters, 8-year-old Venice, has developed mild allergic symptoms.
Teraisa's asthma attacks have decreased to a few since moving out of the house two months ago, and her mind is clearing.
"Getting her well is all I care about," George Goldman said. "I don't care about the house as long as she gets better."
An epidemiological study is not complete, but so far about 60 residents have been identified as having problems. Most complain of respiratory symptoms and a few have developed cognitive problems, according to Maddox.
Employees from the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, were collecting samples from the Goldman home Thursday to determine which fungi are growing and if they are part of the problem.
According to Dr. Linda Stetzenbach of the environmental center, it's too early to draw conclusions. Numerous fungi, including Aspergillus and Penicillium, are capable of producing toxins and all will be considered.
Hired by attorneys for the homeowners, researchers will identify the organisms are present as well as their prevalence and determine what, if any, toxicity they may possess.
Environmental health specialist Dr. James Craner of Reno is conducting an epidemiological study, which will include polling the neighborhood. The study should be completed some time in October, according to Maddox.
About 370 homeowners have joined in a class action against Stanton Park Development company and their constituents, Millard Realty and Construction Inc. and Garretson & Furgerson Construction Inc.
"These people want their homes fixed," Maddox said. "They want to get what they paid for, free of defects, healthy and safe to live in."
Community drainage systems will have to be reworked, according to Maddox, and the price tag for the whole project could reach into the millions.
Filed in Carson City District Court in late 1999, the lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in May before Judge Michael Griffin in the legislative Assembly chambers due to the number of plaintiffs and lawyers, according to Maddox. A spokesman for Millard Realty and Construction Inc. was not available for comment.