New information in Bragg baby deaths

Fort Bragg (Wikimedia)
September 7, 2010 5:32:54 PM PDT
Gabriel Duke was just a month and a half years old when he died in March. His parents say an Army investigator told them there was Chinese drywall in their home at Fort Bragg and they should move out immediately.

"I looked it up and it scared me. It scared me and it upset me," said Gabriel's mother Krystyna Duke.

And one local expert says the Dukes had reason to worry. Jerry Leblanc is the head of the toxicology department at NC State. He says toxic gasses from Chinese drywall can impact the body.

"Things like coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, things like that. And if exposure persists for a significantly long time at sufficient concentrations these materials can cause stroke, a coma, can cause death. They're considered very toxic," he explained.

The Dukes say Gabriel developed a cough within days of coming home from the hospital.

"It was a cough that you would only expect to hear from someone who's been smoking for years," said SPC Nathanael Duke.

Krystyna Duke says she had several nose bleeds during her pregnancy with Gabriel. Their 2-year-old daughter Harley suffers from eczema and Nathanael had an asthma attack - something he hadn't experienced since he was a kid.

They also say parts of the home smelled like rotten eggs.

"I'd be highly suspicious that there's exposure to gaseous sulfur compounds in the house," said Leblanc.

The Dukes say the Army gave them results from several different tests. One shows two pieces of drywall from their home which tested positive for Chinese drywall - giving off gasses at levels higher than a positive control sample.

"In my opinion that was quite a good test," said Leblanc.

A second test, which measured the amount of sulfur in one piece of drywall - not the gases being released - came back within allowable limits. The lab indicates other criteria may need to be met before classifying the sample as not of Chinese origin or problematic.

The Army and the builder - Picerne - say they had more tests done as well - with negative results.

You're right that initial tests were positive for Chinese drywall, but a subsequent test - a more thorough test - proved a negative result," explained Colonel Steve Sicinski at a recent news conference at Fort Bragg on the subject.

And the builder says its drywall distributor hasn't used imported material.

"They only distribute board manufactured in the United States. They sent us a written statement to that effect as well," said John Shay with Picerne.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has set guidelines for proper testing - which continue to change as the investigation into contaminated Chinese drywall continues across the U.S.

Professor Leblanc says each test the Army used measured something different. Based on the results of the first one - and symptoms the family described - he says he wouldn't be comfortable staying in the home.

"No, absolutely not," he said.

The Dukes are also second guessing the builder and the Army - something they're not afraid to do, no matter the consequences.

"Whatever they decide to do to me, I'll take it because it's not worth another child dying," Nathaniel Duke offered.

For now, no one is living in the home where Gabriel Duke died or another home on post that's linked to the deaths of three babies.

While the army is investigating a total of 10 infant deaths over the last four years, parents like the Dukes say they just hope another family doesn't suffer the same loss in the meantime.

Other families we spoke with say the Army has not given them official results from tests done in their home. The army tells ABC11 they're not releasing that information to protect the integrity of the investigation.

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