Florida Lawmakers to Hold Chinese Drywall Meeting, Governor Crist Asks Feds for HelpApr 6, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Two Florida lawmakers plan to hold a public meeting this week to discuss the state's problems with defective Chinese drywall. Meanwhile, Florida's governor is asking for federal help to study the health risks posed by the possibly toxic drywall.
The Florida Health Department has received scores of complaints about defective Chinese drywall from residents across the state. The material reportedly emits a “rotten eggs” odor and causes 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 Florida has so far been the state with the most drywall complaints, problems have cropped up elsewhere. Other states reporting drywall problems include Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. According to the consumer group America’s Watchdog, drywall from China was likely used in the Deep South, the Midwest, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, British Columbia, and even Hawaii. Some estimates say Chinese drywall may have been used in as many as 100,000 U.S. homes.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, both Democrats, have recently acted on the drywall issue. They are each a sponsor of bills in the House and Senate that call for an investigation of the product by the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission. According to The Palm Beach Post, the two are going to meet with Florida homeowners this week. A spokesperson for Nelson told the Post that the meeting would allow the two to hear first hand from people experiencing problems with Chinese drywall.
Last week, Wexler wrote Florida Governor Charlie Crist asking him to declare a state of emergency over the Chinese drywall problems. While he is not going that far, the South Florida Sun Sentinel is reporting that Crist has written to Wexler promising to push federal agencies to conduct air sample tests to help the state determine whether a Chinese drywall health advisory is warranted. Crist also wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking assistance, the Sun Sentinel said.
According to Crist's letters to the agencies, the Florida Health Department has conducted limited testing on 12 homes in the state. The tests showed Chinese drywall samples taken from Florida homes contained higher concentrations of sulfur compounds and emitted sulfur gases when subjected to heat and humidity. According to the letter, it is unclear whether these gases pose a health hazard to people living in the homes.
Wexler's office has praised the action Crist is taking. “I am pleased to have received such a quick and thorough response from Governor Charlie Crist, who clearly shares my concern for the families throughout Florida facing Chinese drywall in their homes," Wexler said in a statement released last Friday. " I spoke with the Governor this afternoon, and I am confident that he is pursuing the right course of action by contacting the Environmental Protection Agency and asking them for assistance in conducting the appropriate studies."