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More Cooperation Needed on Drywall, Florida Senator Tells Chinese Officials

Aug 19, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was in China last week to discuss the problems associated with defective Chinese drywall.  According to a press release from his office, the Senator told  Chinese officials that issues with Chinese drywall and led tainted toys had shaken American consumers’ confidence in imports from that country.

Nelson’s China stop was part of a twelve-day trip as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. According to his press release, Nelson told Chinese officials that they need to step up their cooperation with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and help U.S. homeowners hurt by the defective drywall.   “I told them that we wouldn’t back down.  A product from their country is damaging the homes and lives of too many people for them not to take this seriously,” Nelson said in the statement.

In February, Nelson called on the CPSC for an investigation of problems in homes constructed with the imported drywall, and for an interim ban on the product.  He and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana then filed legislation aimed at initiating a recall of defective Chinese drywall, as well as a ban on the material.

In the U.S., consumers in 24 states have filed a total of 1046 Chinese drywall complaints with the CPSC. Most complaints have come from Florida (807) and Louisiana (139). Other states with Chinese drywall reports include: Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Gases emitted from the 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, similar to fireworks or rotten eggs, that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode.

Earlier this summer, tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Chinese-manufactured drywall contained elevated levels of strontium sulfide, as well as the presence of several organic compounds associated with the production of acrylic paint that were not present in samples of U.S.-made drywall. The Florida Health Department is expected to release test results that could shed more light on potential health hazards in September.  The EPA and other government agencies are also conducting health testing, and those results should also be available soon.

The Chinese drywall disaster is just the latest scandal involving imports from that country.  In 2008, nearly 80% of all product recalls in the U.S. involved imports from China.  Many Chinese products have been found to have been made with toxic materials, such as lead paint, and even counterfeit ingredients.   In the past, dangerous toys, toxic foods and even tainted heparin have been among the scores of Chinese products that have put U.S. consumers at risk.

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