Dangerous Chinese Drywall in American Homes

From on April 09, 2009 in Building Materials

185314_drywall_mess.jpgDoes your house smell like rotten eggs? Do your lights flicker for no reason? Are you suffering from dizzy spells, swollen joints, nose bleeds, rashes, or headaches? If you’re nodding your head yes you may be a victim of a Chinese drywall nightmare.

Other symptoms include corroded household wiring and air conditioning coils and discoloration in wood furniture. The alleged cause is high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that affects the nervous system, issuing from contaminated drywall made in some Chinese factories.

There have been at least four class action lawsuits filed in Florida and others have been filed in California, Louisiana, and Alabama against builders that used the toxic drywall in the construction of new homes.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating the complaints and if the drywall proves positive, there will be tens of thousands of potentially affected homes involved. Recently a preliminary report was released by the Florida Department of Health that shows samples of sulfur gases were found in samples of Chinese drywall.

It’s feared the affected homes will add to the already huge numbers of foreclosures. Most of the homes built with Chinese drywall were built during the housing boom between 2005 and 2006, which were also the homes that lost the most in value. Add to that the health risks of living in such a home and it seems the easiest way out for many of these homeowners might be to just walk away.

During the housing boom drywall became a hot commodity; supply couldn’t keep up with the demand which prompted suppliers to look for other sources such as China. During the “boom” more than 550 million pounds of it was imported and shipped to the U.S. with the bulk landing in Florida. Chinese drywall was used to build over 60,000 homes in over a dozen states.

Who’s suing whom? The homeowners are suing the construction companies, the construction companies are suing the suppliers, the suppliers are suing the manufacturers in China, and China is denying any wrongdoing.

Lennar Corp., a Florida homebuilder, has initiated a program to conduct inspections and remove the contaminated drywall in many of its homes. Unfortunately for the homeowners, they’ll have to move out of their homes for at least 6 months while repairs are being made.

Repair costs could run into the tens of millions for builders, not including the unspecified damages that could result from the lawsuits. Not good news for home builders that are already facing financial meltdowns due to the slow-down in new home construction. And, many of the builders named in the lawsuits have already gone bankrupt.

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Red flag list of potentially lethal Chinese product recalls:

A greener solution for drywall: