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China Will Be Asked to Help Pay For Drywall Damage, CPSC Head Says

Oct 16, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The U.S. will be asking China to help  pay for the mess created by defective drywall imported from that country.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Inez Tenenbaum, head of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), said she will bring up Chinese drywall during her visit there next week for the biennial U.S.-China consumer product safety summit.

The CPSC has received over 1,500 complaints regarding Chinese drywall from homeowners across the country. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

Chinese drywall poured into the U.S. between 1999 and 2007 because of the high demand created by the housing boom. Imports accelerated when the rebuilding that followed Hurricane Charley in Florida in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005, created a drywall shortage. According to an earlier Wall Street Journal report, some 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall was imported to the U.S. during the housing boom. That means as many as 100,000 homes throughout the country could have been built with the material.

According to The Wall Street Journal, consulting firm Towers Perrin estimates the tab for drywall damage could range from $15 billion to $25 billion.  Tenenbaum told the Journal that next week, she will ask Chinese officials if they are prepared to participate in providing funds for drywall homes, and what it would take for that to occur.  Tenenbaum also promised to tell Chinese authorities that the U.S. would strictly enforce its new laws on products ranging from toys and all-terrain vehicles to electrical products. She said she also wanted to create a partnership with China that includes educating its government and manufacturers about U.S. standards.

The Chinese drywall disaster is just the latest scandal involving imports from that country.  In 2008, nearly 80 percent of all product recalls in the U.S. involved imports from China.  Products like dog food, baby formula, toys with lead paint and even pharmaceuticals like heparin have been found to have been made with toxic materials and other counterfeit ingredients putting U.S. consumers at risk.

According to the Journal, the Chinese have not indicated one way or another whether they would be willing to foot any of the bill for Chinese Drywall damage.  Calls  to the Chinese Embassy seeking comment were not returned, the Journal said.

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