Imported Chinese Drywall Investigation – Update

Chinese Drywall

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.
www.DanKrell.com

If you missed the flood of media reports late last year about imported drywall possibly emitting toxic and corrosive fumes, the story has not gone away. Although initially, some of the problematic drywall was reported as being imported from other countries, imported Chinese drywall has become the focus. The growing number of health complaints along with financial losses (due to the abandoning of suspected toxic homes) has prompted an intensive multi-agency investigation, recent congressional action, and an increasing number of class action suits.

The imported drywall problem drew national attention in 2008, when throughout the year reports of home owner complaints of severe respiratory ailments, oxidized jewelry, and corroded pipes were highlighted. Although the bulk of the reports of problems associated with the imported Chinese drywall emanate from Florida, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has collected over 365 reports from eighteen states and the District of Columbia. A majority of the complaints reported that affected homes were built in 2006 and 2007; which coincided with a time when building materials were in high demand due to a considerable increase in construction and the rebuilding of hurricane-damaged states (cpsc.gov).

An Associated Press release (By Cain Burdeau; May 19, 2009) estimates that the defective drywall was installed in “more than 100,000 homes.” Problems become evident in hot and humid environments, so there is a potential for additional complaints from homes in cooler climates.

In testimony given on May 21, 2009 to the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, Acting Deputy Director of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Elizabeth Southerland, stated that the EPA completed the initial analysis of drywall samples, and detailed further analyses from affected areas by the EPA, CDC and the CPSC. The initial analysis compared two samples of Chinese drywall from homes in Florida to four samples of U.S. manufactured drywall. Ms. Southerland cautioned that because the sample was small, the results “may not be representative of all drywall products” (epa.gov).

The results of the initial EPA analysis detected compositional differences between the sampled Chinese drywall and the U.S. manufactured drywall. Among the significant differences were higher levels of sulfur and strontium found in the Chinese samples. The analysis also detected organic compounds associated with acrylic paints in the Chinese samples (but not in the U.S. samples).

The health and financial aspect of the imported drywall problem has also attracted the attention of lawmakers. A bi-partisan amendment to assist affected home owners was presented by Florida Congressmen, Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). The amendment was added to the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act and passed the House of Representatives on May 7th. The amendment required a study to determine the effects of the Chinese drywall problem on regional foreclosure rates, as well as studying the availability of insurance for homes containing Chinese drywall (wexler.house.gov).

The drywall problem has become a national priority prompting the CPSC to create an informational website (www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/index.html). The CPSC is committed to provide home owners with a resource to understand the problems and common health symptoms associated with the imported drywall, updates on the drywall investigation, directions on how to handle a suspected drywall problem, and the ability to report suspected problems in a home.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 1, 2009. Copyright (c) 2009 Dan Krell.

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