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Chinese drywall

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Chinese drywall has been linked to corrosion found in houses located in the U.S.

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Contents

Overview

Drywall is a common building material used for constructing interior walls and ceilings of homes.  Chinese drywall refers to defective drywall that was imported from China between 2001 to 2008.  This drywall reportedly emited sulfur gasses which corroded wiring, damaged appliances, created noxious smells and caused adverse health conditions.  There have been approximately 3,000 reports made, but it is possible that more than 60,000 homes have chinese drywall in their walls and ceilings.[1]  The majority of the reports of defective drywall are from homeowners located in the Southern part of the U.S.  Many of these homes were rebuilt after the Katrina hurricane.  At the time, there was a huge housing boom which caused a shortage of shortage of U.S.-manufactured drywall.  Builders began to purchase large quantities of drywall from China to support the construction going on.[2]  Despite the use of imported drywall throughout the U.S., the main reports of defective drywall comes from those southern states that have a high humidity rate.

Investigation

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency in charge of investigating the damages caused by imported drywall. Joining the investigating efforts of the CPSC are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), other federal agencies, state law enforcement and health authorities.

There are three separate tracks that are being investigated simultaneously by these various agencies, they include:

  1. Evaluation of the relationship between the drywall and the reported health symptoms
  2. Evaluation of the relationship between the drywall and electrical and fire safety issues in the home
  3. Tracing of the origin and distribution of the drywall[3]

At this point, the CPSC and other agencies have conducted enough testing of the drywall and homes to determine that there is a correlation between the defective drywall, an increased hydrogen sulfide levels within homes with defective drywall, and corrosion of wires and appliances in those homes.[4]

There are studies going on at this time to review the health effects to exposure to those chemicals found in imported drywall.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on the correlation between health issues and defective drywall.  So far, there is no definitive link associated with with imported drywall and health problems reported by homeowners.[5]

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has asked homeowners to remove the Chinese drywall as it causes corrosion of electrical items and other products, leading to safety risks for the homeowners.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a Interim Remediation Guidance for Homes with Corrosion from Problem Drywall requesting that homeowners remove the imported drywall as it causes corrosion of electrical items and other products, which leads to safety risks for the homeowners.[6]

Issues

Insurance

There have been issues with insurance companies either canceling policies or refusing to renewal policies for those homes where imported drywall has was used in the construction of the house.  This is a catch-22 situation, where homeowners are required by the mortgage companies to insure their property or risk foreclosure, but the homeowners are unable to insure their homes because insurance companies will not offer them insurance.  The homeowners are placed in an impossible position.  As yet, there is not a law that prevents insurance companies from cancelling insurance policies.[7]

Legal

Mitigation of damages is a legal principle that requires a party seeking damages to make reasonable efforts to reduce damages as much as possible. Even a person who suffers personal injury through no fault of his or her own has an obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid further loss, and to minimize the consequences of the injury.[8]

With the Chinese Drywall incident, the concept of mitigation of damages would be put to use when homeowners, at their own expense, remove the defective drywall from their homes so to avoid further health complications associated with the imported drywall and other damages associated with such material.

Lawsuits

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. and Atlanta-based homebuilder Beazer Homes USA, Inc.has reached a settlement over the manufacturing of defective drywall.  However, Knauf must still face around 200 other federal lawsuits from U.S. homeowners and builders.  An earlier case against Knauf required $164,000 in damages, plus attorney fees and court costs be paid to a Louisiana couple.

Another drywall manufacturer, Taishan Gypsum Company, lost against a group of Virginia homeowners and now must pay damages in the amount of $2.6 million.[9]

Class action suits against drywall manufacturers are being discussed by the courts as to the handling of such cases.

References

  1. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/15/national/main5386796.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;2
  2. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/02/national/main6357580.shtml
  3. http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/investigation.html
  4. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt164.shtm
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/drywall/
  6. http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/guidance0410.pdf
  7. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/15/national/main5386796.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;2
  8. http://public.findlaw.com/bookshelf-working-woman/wmnchp9_b.html
  9. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20005167-10391695.html

External Links

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