Danger: Chinese goods

During the height of the housing boom, American home builders began to rely heavily on imported Chinese drywall. Domestic supplies couldn't keep up with demand, and imported drywall looked like a godsend.

It has turned into a nightmare. Chinese drywall is the suspected cause for persistent foul smells in homes, for corrosion of metals and jewelry and for respiratory problems.

The problem has been concentrated in south Florida, where the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005 prompted huge demand for building materials. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received complaints from hundreds of homeowners in 19 states and the District of Columbia who say they're victims. U.S. imports of Chinese drywall peaked in 2006 at 503 million pounds, enough for 32,000 homes.

The Florida Department of Health is investigating, as is the federal safety commission. At least two home builders are replacing drywall they installed, even relocating homeowners while the work is done. We're talking about a massive job here.

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Posted on 9:21 PM by x and filed under , , | 1 Comments »


Rick Hollister said... @ July 20, 2009 at 11:16 AM

Here is what we know thus far, we have more questions than answers though there is much to be learned about the effects of the CDW. There is enough known about the product to enable us to identify it with reasonable certainty. The CDW contains levels of strontium sulphide which are higher levels than in American dry wall; also the CDW contains 5% organic material. We saw evidence that in allot of the contaminated homes, the plastic around the wiring had been penetrated and the gases can reach as far as 5 feet below the concrete slab.

It appears the damage is more severe than first thought in some homes when inspected completely. Just pulling samples does not give a full picture of the collateral damage. Some of the experts argue that, once the exposed to the sulphide, deterioration is progressive and will continue even if the dry wall is removed. There are a number of highly qualified and reliable experts who agree that the only remedy for this problem is removal and replacement of the dry wall as well as the exposed soft wire. There are still some investigations underway that exploring less invasive and costly means of repair. We still do not know of any generally accepted remedial measures, short of removal and replacement, which will definitely eliminate the problem. The most puzzling phenomena was that in some homes tested when they went back the next day to take air samples those sample came back negative. Now how is that, when the first set of samples comes back positive? It is still unclear about the health effects but in private sessions with some toxicologist they feel there may be some bad adverse health effects depending on the exposure time.

Ok to complicate matters, standard comprehensive general liability insurance policies which typically cover general contractors may not afford much relief. Many of the policies include absolute pollution exclusions which bar coverage for any losses arising from “pollution”. Even policies that do not have absolute exclusions typically offer only partial coverage. Thus, one of the most expensive items of repair – the cost of removing and replacing the drywall is likely not covered. If this is the case a home owner may be left pursuing enormous damages from contractors, suppliers or manufactures with little or no available insurance coverage. Unless these defendants have substantial assets, home owners could be left with very limited options.

Rick Hollister CEI, CMR, CLI
Environmental Administrators, Inc
Tallahassee, Fl

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