First Chinese Drywall Hearing Slated for Senate Next WeekMay 15, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
A Senate subcommittee will take up the growing Chinese drywall problem during a hearing next week. According to the South Florida Business Journal, next Thursday's proceeding before the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance subcommittee will be the first such hearing in Congress.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. imported roughly 309 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2007. The material reportedly emits sulfur fumes that produce a “rotten eggs” odor and cause metals, such as air conditioning coils, to corrode. The fumes have also been associated with respiratory and sinus problems in some residents. In some homes, the drywall problems have been so severe that families have had to move, and some builders have begun gutting and replacing drywall in the buildings.
While the first Chinese drywall complaints came from homeowners in Florida, it has become clear that the problem is a national one. Reports of defective Chinese drywall have now been recorded in Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. It seems the warm, humid climate in the south encourages the drywall to emit sulfur fumes. Some experts fear that in cooler, dryer areas of the country, it could be years before Chinese drywall problems finally surface.
According to the South Florida Business Journal, the Senate hearing will focus on the health and product safety issues posed by the drywall. HeraldTribune.com reported that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has criticized the Consumer Products Safety Commission's (CPSC) response to the drywall debacle, sits on the subcommittee. While the witness list is still being put together, HeraldTribune.com said officials from the CPSC, Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control, and the Florida Department of Health could testify. Nelson is also trying to line up affected homeowners to appear.
In Florida alone, where the health department has received more than 300 drywall complaints, at least 150 lawsuits involving 15,000 plaintiffs have been filed in federal courts in that state. Claims have also been filed in other states. Homeowners are worried that the defective drywall will devalue their homes, and they are especially worried about the health consequences of the drywall. As we reported last week, plaintiffs around the country are waiting to see if the lawsuits will be consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation.