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Recall of Chinese Drywall? Don’t Hold Your Breath!

3 comments

The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (10/20, Wozniak) reports, "A summit beginning Wednesday in Beijing between the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and its Chinese counterpart will press for companies in the Chinese drywall supply chain to take responsibility for their defective product. Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum will appeal to the Chinese companies to do ‘what is fair and just,’ commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Monday." But "the mountain of obstacles to a recall appears insurmountable, say attorneys, academics and other experts in Chinese law and Chinese business culture. ‘If China won’t recall the defective products in its own market, what makes anybody think that they’ll do it for products in the U.S?’ asked Adam Minter, who blogs in Shanghai."

See my other articles on Chinese Drywall at my Injury Board Honolulu Blog.

In a separate article, the Fort Myers News-Press (10/20, Wozniak) reports on reasons why a Chinese drywall recall would prove difficult. Marshall Meyer, a professor at Wharton School and a global expert on Chinese business, said that "in this case, there are numerous distributors of a Chinese product that is difficult to trace because it is made by many companies and some of the product is not marked." CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said, "CPSC has sent more than 100 letters to U.S. importers, suppliers, manufacturers and home builders to obtain information about what they know, when did imported drywall come into this country and which communities was it used in."

Bill urges banks to assist Chinese drywall homeowners. Housing Wire (10/19, Prior) reported, "Congressman Glenn Nye (D-Va.) introduced a concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives calling for banks and mortgage servicers to assist homeowners struggling with toxic drywall, according to a release from his office." The legislation "urges mortgage servicers and banks to provide temporary forbearance on their mortgage payments to help families afford the costs of additional residency. ‘Recognizing this issue in Congress and formally asking lenders to be a part of the solution will give families more leverage when working with banks or mortgage holders who may be unfamiliar with the seriousness of this problem,’ Nye said."

Drywall inspections underway. WVUE-TV New Orleans (10/19, Parker) on its website reported, "Preparations are ramping up in preparation for the first trials in cases of toxic Chinese drywall. Judge Eldon Fallon has ordered a meticulous inspection of more than two dozen suspected homes across the country." All the findings "are being recorded for the judge, as they will be an important tool in court during trial. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say they approximate a cost of $100,000 per home or a third of the cost of the home to begin to make homeowners whole." They believe the total cost "to settle the lawsuits would be staggering."

Florida soldier’s home contaminated with Chinese drywall. WPTV-TV West Palm Beach, FL (10/19, Cashmere) on its website reported on Colin Green, a soldier from Port St. Lucie, FL, who "returned from overseas to his two year old home" only to find it contaminated with Chinese drywall. "Time is of the essence but time isn’t exactly what Green has in abundance. In less than a week he heads back to serve his country at Fort Bragg, North Carolina."

3 Comments

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  1. Charles Delwarte says:
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    I am not an expert but I have been in the construction industry for over 25 years. Based on what I do know about building materials (and products that are normally in a home) is that they give off volital organic compounds[VOC’s] A typical VOC that most people are familiar with is the “smell” given off by a freshly painted room. Similar VOC’s are given off by glues, partical board, carpeting, cleaning products, soap, even perfumes and makeup. Obviously, these products may have strong odors and even some irritants but generally speaking are safe for most people. NOTE some people are hyper-sensitive.

    In my view the Chinese drywall board does not seem to fall into this catagory. It would appear that the VOC’s given off by these products contain not only caustic irritants but also corrosive elements as well.

    I am not aware of any standards or specifications that must be met by manufacturers to conform to industry standards other than general liability. I.E. All building products must be safe for what they are intended to be used for. My guess is that what needs to happen now is that testing must be done to determine exactly what compounds are contained in the Chinese product and what VOC’s they give off.

    It is worth noting that many building products outgas over a period of time. It can take weeks or months before a product outgasses sufficently to not be irritating or volital. Indoor Air Quality experts often suggest that the solution to pollution is dillution. Even poisionous elements like arsinic are no longer deadly if dilluted enough. The problem with the toxic Chinese drywall is that it may be impossible to dillute the VOC’s sufficently because they are being contained within the housing envelope and have insufficient opportunity to escape. That is to say it may not be possible to “air-out” the home enough to elimiate the VOC’s given off by the drywall. Only scientific testing can determine this.

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    Thanks for the comment. Intensive testing has been ongoing on the Chinese drywall since the problems arose but I have not seen the results.

    I just heard a talk by a schools expert at the US Green Building Council who said the 45% of US school children in publoic schools suffer from some form of asthma induced by the air they are forced to breathe in the schools. This is huge health catastrophe and the fact that the building design and construction industry has no standrads to buoild by so as to avoid these problems shows how poorly our economic system is performing. Supposedly the market place regulates these things so that people don’t get sick. What has happened is the the building industry is a money driven market where jobs and profits are the only part of the equation. Since it takes a while for people to get sick in cases like the kids developing asthma, the builder, architect and workers are all long gone. We need tough laws and rules and standards. The reality is that no one will do the right thing unless you make them do it.

  3. Gerry McGill says:
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    Wayne, as I understand it the experts have not reached a firm conclusion as to whether or not the drywall poses a significant health risk. However, the fumes are corrosive enough that they can cause the copper coils in air handler units to fail in as little as one year. I have one client who purchased a townhouse built in 2002 who has had to replace her interior air handler unit 6 times before discovering her home was built with Chinese drywall. Conventional wisdom is that the Chinese drywall problem started after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 but she unfortunately was a couple of years ahead of the times.