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Chinese Help on Drywall Problems Sought

Oct 26, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
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US officials are in China hoping to persuade Chinese companies to pay for repairs to homes built with toxic drywall made in that country. Inez Tenenbaum, head of the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), is in Shanghai for a meeting with her counterparts there, and will ask the country’s trade ministry to convince Chinese drywall makers to meet with US officials to discuss solutions to the problem.

Since late 2008, the CPSC has received more than 3,600 reports from residents in 39 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. Sulfurous 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. Some people living with the wallboard have also complained of health problems. The CPSC has recommended that homes built with defective Chinese drywall be gutted.

“What we’re asking and we’ve been asking for months is for the Chinese government to help us get the other manufacturers to the table,” Tenenbaum told the Associated Press. So far, most Chinese drywall manufacturers have refused to cooperate, she said. Tenenbaum also asserted that one state-owned company was holding up progress, but would not name the manufacturer.

So far, only one Chinese drywall manufacturer – Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. – has offered anything in the way of a solution to the problem. In a settlement announced earlier this month, Knauf agreed to fund a pilot remediation program by which 300 homes in four states would be repaired.

The settlement agreement calls for Knauf and other named defendants to see that the defective drywall is removed, and replacements made for electrical wiring, appliances including air conditioning, and fixtures damaged by drywall fumes, in accordance with the remediation protocol established by CPSC. The protocol also requires that other fixtures be removed and replaced as needed, including: Hot water heaters, cabinets, countertops, doors, moldings and trim (as required to remove drywall), sinks, toilets, bathtubs and shower enclosures, mirrors, ceiling fans, plumbing fixtures, exhaust grills and diffusers, marble pieces, doors and attached door handles. In addition to paying for repairs, homeowners will receive $8.50 per square foot to cover any additional expenses such as moving costs and temporary housing.

Knauf will hire the contractors to perform the work, and repairs will be inspected by an environmental engineer.

For now, only homes that are proven to contain 95 percent Knauf-made drywall will be eligible for the remediation program. It is hoped that a successful pilot program will lead to the settlement of many more Chinese drywall lawsuits.

According to the Associated Press, Tenenbaum praised Knauf’s settlement as a “major breakthrough.”

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