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Chinese Dry Wall Plaguing Florida Homeowners

Jan 12, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Drywall made in China is reportedly causing problems for Florida homeowners.  According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and local media, the Chinese dry wall  has caused unpleasant odors in many homes, and fumes from the dry wall have destroyed electrical wiring and air conditioning units.

According to a report on news-press.com, The Florida Health Department first became aware of the Chinese drywall problem three months ago, and notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August. The problem appears to be mainly from drywall imported from China during Florida's construction boom years of 2004-2005.  In some Florida developments, the drywall issue emerged after months of failures in heating and cooling systems.  Many homeowners have complained about the presence of a sulfur odor, and others have said that the fumes from the Chinese drywall are corroding air-conditioner coils, computer wiring and metal picture frames, The Wall Street Journal said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many of the Florida homes that are the subject of complaints were built by Lennar Corp., the nation's second-largest builder by volume.  Lennar is testing, and continues to test, a dozen of its Florida developments and has shared results with the state health department, the Journal said.  The company has relocated several families in order to rip out and replace the drywall in their homes.

Many Florida homeowners experiencing these problems are understandably concerned about potential health effects of the dry wall fumes.  According to a report on Environmental Expert.com, the drywall is made from gypsum.  The problems appear to be related to the presence of iron disulfide (FeS2 pyrite). Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbonyl sulfide, sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon disulfide (CS2) are also suspected as culprits, the Web site said.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the Florida Health Department says tests show that the levels of emissions from the drywall pose no "immediate health threat."

Florida homeowners are also concerned that the dry wall issues will affect the value of their houses, as well as their ability to sell.  Many are already dealing with decimated real estate values as a result of the collapse of the housing market, the Journal said.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China is the company at the center of Florida's dry wall problems.  The company issued a statement last week insisting that sulfur-like smell coming out of its dry wall poses no dangers.  However, Knauf Plasterboard insists that the damage done to air conditioning and electrical wiring is the result of dry wall made by some other company - though it has been unable to name which one.  

Knauf Plasterboard also insisted that the dry wall problems are confined to Florida, but last week, the EPA revealed it was looking into similar reports in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


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