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Feds Playing Catch-up in Chinese Drywall Probe

Nov 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The Florida-State-sponsored Technical Symposium on Corrosive Imported Drywall that took place in Tampa last week is considered, said the Herald Tribune, to be the most complete of its kind. The Symposium was attended by key scientists working on the contaminated Chinese drywall issue plaguing homeowners nationwide.

Some 400 people were in attendance to hear about testing and research being conducted by federal, state, and private sector to learn what is causing health and corrosion problems in homes outfitted with the allegedly defective product, said the Herald Tribune. Thousands of U.S. homeowners claim that they are becoming sick as a result of defective Chinese drywall, claiming a “rotten egg” odor; headaches; nausea and vomiting; respiratory problems; and corrosion of metals in the home.

The Daily Herald recently wrote that millions of gypsum sheets imported to the U.S. during the housing boom appear to have been contaminated with an array of sulfur compounds. The gypsum in drywall, which typically comes from mines, has recently come from a chemical process involving lime or limestone and gas from coal-fired power plants. Contaminants and sulfur found in power plant smokestacks are supposed to be removed in the process. Failure of proper removal is the cause of foul odors, respiratory complaints, and corrosion, according to some Chinese experts in building supplies. Others say phosphogypsum (calcium sulfate), a radioactive phosphorus substance, is to blame. Banned for use in U.S. construction in 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says prolonged exposure to this radium-contained element can lead to a higher risk of lung cancer.

The Symposium looked at what is releasing the corrosive gases, why and how, said the Herald Tribune. One group—Environ International—discussed research that might help with the answer. Environ is a consultant group, explained the Herald Tribune, that has worked for builders involved in the debacle. Tom Gauthier, who works at Environ, said elemental sulfur—solid sulfur particles—are likely the "key characteristic" according to the Herald Tribune. "Elemental sulfur is the primary reactant," Gauthier said, quoted the Herald Tribune "Strontium may be a good indicator for Chinese drywall, but not necessarily corrosive Chinese drywall," Gauthier added.

The reaction between elemental sulfur and carbon monoxide can produce carbonyl sulfide, which could in turn, produce hydrogen sulfide and carbon disulfide, said the Herald Tribune. The compounds have been found in Chinese drywall in a number of privately- and governmentally-sponsored studies.

We have been writing about a time-sensitive, one-time offer made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. that is expected to do much to streamline the process for suing the major drywall manufacturer. To take advantage of this one-time offer, Chinese drywall claimants must sign on to an omnibus class action lawsuit by December 2, 2009. To be eligible for the lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes. Any Chinese drywall homeowner interested in becoming a party to this lawsuit must start now by contacting an attorney and arranging to have their home inspected.

Parker Waichman LLP, the first law firm to file a federal Chinese drywall lawsuit, is offering assistance to any homeowner interested in joining the Knauf Plasterboard lawsuit. Free consultations are available through the firm’s website at, or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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