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Feds Finally Release Chinese Drywall Remediation Guidance

Apr 4, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Two federal agencies have released long-awaited guidance on remediating homes built with toxic Chinese drywall.

In a joint statement issued Friday, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development advised Chinese drywall homeowners to not only remove the tainted wallboard, but to replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.  Basically, the homes will need to be gutted.

“Our investigations now show a clear path forward,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a statement. “We have shared with affected families that hydrogen sulfide is causing the corrosion. Based on the scientific work to date, removing the problem drywall is the best solution currently available to homeowners. Our scientific investigation now provides a strong foundation for Congress as they consider their policy options and explore relief for affected homeowners.”

Taking the recommended steps should help eliminate both the source of the problem drywall and corrosion-damaged components that might cause a safety problem in the home, the agencies said.

Chinese drywall victims have been waiting for a remediation protocol from the CPSC for more than a year. Since late 2008, the CPSC has received more than 3,000 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. 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.

According to the CPSC, preliminary data from testing conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Chinese drywall emits hydrogen sulfide at rates 100 times the rates of non-Chinese samples.

How Chinese drywall homeowners will be able to afford having their homes gutted is an open question. Some advocates for Chinese drywall victims are hoping that the release of the CPSC and HUD guidance on Friday will spur Congress to come up with some sort of financial relief for homeowners.

Other are not willing to wait for the government to act, and have filed lawsuits against Chinese drywall manufacturers.  Thousands of such suits are currently pending in multidistrict litigation currently underway in federal court in New Orleans. A decision in one of the first trials is expected soon. Knauf Plasterboard, the defendant in the first contested lawsuit to go to trial, has acknowledged that the defective drywall should be removed, but maintains that plumbing and wiring do not need to be replaced.

Attorney Jordan Chaikin, whose firm, Parker Waichman LLP, represents about 1,000 drywall victims, told the Associated Press that claims by thousands more homeowners against Chinese manufacturers are pending.

It is estimated that properly remediating a home with Chinese drywall could cost as much as $100,000.

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