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Virginia Community Bans Chinese Drywall

May 21, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Potentially-toxic Chinese drywall may no longer be used in Norfolk, Virginia under an ordinance approved by City Council.  According to a report on WVEC.com, the Norfolk Chinese drywall ordinance is the first such ban  approved in the U.S.

Homeowners in several states have complained that Chinese-made drywall produces 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. 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.

Just yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released results of tests it conducted that compared Chinese drywall to American-made material.  The tests found  sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint in the Chinese drywall that were not present in the American wallboard.  The agency said more testing is needed to determine if any of the compounds found in the Chinese drywall are responsible for problems reported by homeowners.

As we've reported previously, dozens of people in Virginia have complained about problems with Chinese drywall.  Venture Supply, a construction supply firm based in Norfolk, has acknowledged importing 100,000 sheets of China-made drywall between March 2006 and December 2008.  One builder in Virginia, The Dragas Companies, has said some of the homes it built have been the subject of drywall complaints.  Residents of the 240-unit Harbor Walk condo complex in Hampton Roads have also reported problems.

The vote in Norfolk City Council to ban the use of Chinese drywall was unanimous.  According to the Associated Press, the ordinance requires contractors to certify that they are not using drywall made in China.  If they don't, they will be denied a building permit.

The ban is being imposed to protect homeowners from contractors or builders who may knowingly use or sell a product that might not be safe.

The Chinese drywall problem has sparked action on a number of fronts.  Thousands of homeowners have filed lawsuits against the material's manufacturers and others.  In the U.S. Congress, several measures have been proposed that would provide aid to affected homeowners.  And today, a Senate subcommittee is scheduled to begin a hearing on the issue.


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