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Article posted Apr 04 2010, 8:30 PM Category: Economy Source: Associated Press Print

Feds: Homes with Chinese drywall must be gutted

By CAIN BURDEAU (AP)

NEW ORLEANS Thousands of U.S. homes tainted by Chinese drywall should be completely gutted, according to new guidelines released Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The guidelines say electrical wiring, outlets, circuit breakers, fire alarm systems, carbon monoxide alarms, fire sprinklers, gas pipes and drywall need to be removed.

"We want families to tear it all out and rebuild the interior of their homes, and they need to start this to get their lives started all over again," said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the commission, the federal agency charged with making sure consumer products are safe.

About 3,000 homeowners, mostly in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, have reported problems with the Chinese-made drywall, which was imported in large quantities during the housing boom and after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The drywall has been linked to corrosion of wiring, air conditioning units, computers, doorknobs and jewelry, along with possible health effects. Tenenbaum said some samples of the Chinese-made product emit 100 times as much hydrogen sulfide as drywall made elsewhere.

The agency continues to investigate possible health effects, but preliminary studies have found a possible link between throat, nose and lung irritation and high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted from the wallboard, coupled with formaldehyde, which is commonly found in new houses.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said now the question is who pays to gut the homes.

"The way I see it, homeowners didn't cause this. The manufacturers in China did," Nelson said. "That's why we've got to go after the Chinese government now."

Southern members of Congress have sought to make it easier to sue Chinese manufacturers and to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help homeowners pay for costs not covered by insurance. They also say the U.S. needs to pressure the Chinese government, which allegedly ran some of the companies that made defective drywall.

About 2,100 homeowners have filed suit in federal court in New Orleans against Chinese manufacturers and U.S. companies that sold the drywall. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is expected to rule soon in a pivotal case against the Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., the only Chinese company that has responded to U.S. suits.

Separate claims by thousands more homeowners against Chinese manufacturers are pending, said Jordan Chaikin, a Florida lawyer whose firm represents about 1,000 homeowners.

They are "continuing to live in their homes with Chinese drywall, patiently waiting for this thing to be resolved so they can move on with their lives," Chaikin said. "We're not waiting for the government to move quicker than we are in the courts."

In some cases, homebuilders have paid to gut and rewire homes. In others, homeowners who can afford it have paid for the work themselves. Knauf Plasterboard has offered to pay for remediation in homes where its defective drywall was installed.

Daniel Becnel, a New Orleans lawyer representing Chinese drywall plaintiffs, including Sean Payton, the head coach of the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, said the government guidelines issued Friday were "word for word what our experts said."

He also said Congress should give homeowners grants to cover the cost of home gutting.

"Get these people out of this environment," he said. "You're making these people sicker and sicker and sicker. You will have long-term effects."

In Cape Coral, Fla., Joyce Dowdy, 71, and her husband Sonny, 63, plan to move out of their $150,000, 1,600-square-foot home while it is gutted to get rid of tainted Chinese drywall.

Joyce Dowdy said she suffers from nose bleeds and her husband has a persistent cough. They blame the drywall.

"We can't live like this anymore," Joyce Dowdy.

They're borrowing money to do the gutting, which means that instead of a mortgage-free retirement they will be paying monthly bills cover the costs of repair.

"It's costing us as much as we paid for the house," Joyce Dowdy said. "But we can't just walk away ... Our house is worth nothing at the moment."

But Randy Noel, past president of the Louisiana Home Builders Association, said the Chinese drywall problem has been exaggerated. He called the new guidelines "overkill."

"Nobody has come up with a house yet that has caught on fire from the Chinese drywall, no one has come up yet with a house that leaks water or gas because of Chinese drywall," he said.

He has examined numerous homes containing Chinese drywall and found minor problems, he said.

"It's a black soot on top of the copper, brass and silver," he said. "You wipe the stuff off and it looks as good as new."

___

Associated Press Writer Brian Skoloff in West Palm Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.





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Comments 1 - 2 of 2 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
The US China bashing again?

Posted: Apr 04 2010, 10:03 PM

Link
188222 Knauf is a multinational company that was started in (and is based in) Germany as a family business. It manufactures in China under a subsiduary as do many western companies. Interesting that the Germans aren't mentioned. Is this a case of China bashing? Knauf are a huge company so if the problems with the plaster board are being exagerated it could backfire as Knauf could take legal action. Knauf have a good reputation in Europes for selling quality products so it isn't surprising that they have agreed to put any problems right if any are found.

How about the US government (and the British) fix the depleted Uranium problems in Serbia and Iraq saying they are so concerned with people's health.
A few problems and lots of Politics

Posted: Apr 05 2010, 5:54 AM

Link
7463 Apparently drywall from China was used in as many as 100 000 homes but there have been only 150 complaints. If the Feds force all homeowners to replace their drywall then that will lead to thousands of lawsuits against Knauf (the main importer) whether there is a problem with their drywall or not.

It seems like some bad batches rather than being a problem with all Chinese imports. Some US made boards were worse than newly fitted Chinese boards that had no problems. This seems very political to me.

On November 23, 2009 CBS News reported that they had done a drywall study to compare American and Chinese drywall. Random samples of new American-made drywall in six U.S. cities, new Chinese-made drywall from China, and samples of drywall from five damaged U.S. homes were collected and sent to the University of Florida to be tested by a team of researchers led by professor Tim Townsend, a scientist and leading expert on the effects of drywall on the environment. The report results stated:

"As expected, the contaminated Chinese samples gave off high levels of sulfur gases. But all but one of the U.S. samples emitted sulfur gases, as well - not at levels as high as the defective Chinese product, but unexpected. Perhaps more surprising, "There were some American products that we tested that had higher emission than some of the new Chinese products that we tested.


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