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Chinese Drywall Discussed at Capitol Hill Meeting

Sep 24, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Lawmakers yesterday pressed for a speedier Chinese drywall investigation during a closed-door meeting with officials from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).  According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, lawmakers from Florida and other affected states are frustrated that the agency has postponed the release of Chinese drywall testing results.

Over the summer, the CPSC had promised that the results from indoor air testing of 50 homes with Chinese drywall would be available in September, but that deadline was pushed back to October.  Then, just this week, the CPSC moved the release date to November.  According to the Herald-Tribune, there is no release date specified for studies on electrical and fire safety concerns.

The Capitol Hill  meeting was attended by Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC.  According to the Herald-Tribune, Tenenbaum told attendees that the Chinese drywall investigation is  "extremely complex and that there probably will not be a quick fix."  

The meeting came just two days after Tenenbaum visited a home with defective drywall in Florida.  As we reported at the time, she indicated that the CPSC would likely not issue a Chinese drywall recall because of logistical consideration.   According to The Herald-Tribune, an aide to Tenenbaum has since clarified those statements, and said nothing is off the table.  However, because of scope of a drywall problem, it is likely that the CPSC will consider a national remediation program rather than a recall.  Such a program could entail some funding for homeowners from the federal government.

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 The Wall Street Journal, 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.

So far, the CPSC has received 1,311 Chinese drywall complaints from homeowners in 26 states and the District of Columbia.  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.

Thousands of homeowners have filed lawsuits over the defective wall board. Chinese drywall lawsuits from around the country have been consolidated in a Multidistrict Litigation that is currently underway in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. The first bellwether trials in that litigation are expected to begin in January.


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