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The Ongoing Chinese Drywall Debacle

Jan 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Hundreds of Florida homeowners have been plagued by odious smells and ongoing wiring, pipe, and air conditioning problems—corroding air conditioning coils and deteriorating pipes and wiring—due to defective Chinese Drywall.  Worse, consumers are complaining about a wide variety of health problems that seem to lift when they are away from the toxic Chinese Drywall.  Health concerns include an array of respiratory problems, nosebleeds and irritated eyes, and headaches.  The defective Chinese Drywall smells very strongly of putrid eggs

It is possible that the Chinese Drywall is emitting excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide fumes, which can cause extreme irritation, unconsciousness, and even death when exposed to amounts of 50 parts per million for more than 10 minutes.

The problem started because of a shortage of U.S.-made drywall.  Builders began using imports from China that likely were kept at sea for months pending approval to enter the U.S.  Some believe the continuous humidity is, in part, responsible for the fumes.  One official with a large building supply company recently told a Florida newspaper that more than 10-million square feet of the Chinese drywall was imported to southwest Florida during Florida’s construction boom of 2004-2005.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China is a manufacturer implicated in this fiasco. Knauf maintains that its defective Chinese Drywall is safe and homeowner damage must be from some other source, although Knauf is unable to describe what else could be to blame for the myriad problems and complaints continue to pour in from many areas in Florida and in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

According to a report in the South Florida Business Journal, at least one developer in the county has said it did buy drywall from Knauf and, in turn, supplied tainted drywall to builders in southwest Florida, where the drywall complaints originated.  Lennar Corp., the nation’s second-largest builder by volume, reportedly built many Florida homes afflicted with Chinese Drywall problems and, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Lennar is testing, and continues to test, a dozen of its Florida developments and has shared results with the state health department.  The company has also relocated several families in order to rip out and replace the drywall in their homes.  Other builders, suppliers, and manufacturers are likely involved as well.

According to BradentonHerald.com, the Florida Health Department has received nearly 40 complaints from homeowners statewide.  In a number of cases, homeowners have had to leave their homes.  Also, according to BradentonHerald.com, homes built by Lennar Homes and Taylor Morrison are at the center of many of the complaints, with about 80 Lennar Homes confirmed contaminated with the defective Chinese Drywall; the developer has plans to test 40 more homes, according to the website.  Lennar has acknowledged the problems, and says it will replace drywall, as well as air conditioning, pipes, and wiring damaged by the fumes and would also cover relocation costs for families who must move while repairs are made.

Lennar hired a Tampa environmental firm to conduct the testing and said in a statement that sulfur compounds inside the home tested are “far below even the most stringent government health and safety standards."  The BradentonHerald.com said some residents are not convinced, and have unable to view Lennar's testing information.


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