The Consumer Product Safety Commission is looking into claims that Chinese-made drywall installed in homes is emitting smelly, corrosive gases and ruining household systems such as air conditioners.
Homeowners' lawsuits contend the drywall has caused them to suffer health problems such as headaches, sore throats, acne, asthma attacks, bloody nose, dizziness, irritated eyes, nausea, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, rashes, sinus problems, bloody nose, and dizziness. There are even concerns that long-term exposure to Chinese drywall could cause cancer due to prolonged contact with radon.
Authorities began investigating problem drywall in 2008, when homeowners in Florida complained of foul odors seeping from their walls and corrosion in their air conditioners, mirrors, electrical units and jewelry.
Although officials initially found no problem with the Chinese-made material, studies eventually showed that the corrosion could be linked to drywall from China. The problematic drywall emits hydrogen sulfide at rates 100 times the rates of non-Chinese samples, the commission said.
The drywall is alleged to have high levels of sulfur and, according to homeowners' complaints, the sulfur-based gases smell of rotten eggs and corrode piping and wiring, causing electronics and appliances to fail. The allegations come after a number of recent safety problems with other Chinese exports, ranging from toys to pet food.
The Florida complaints generally involve homes built or renovated in 2005 and 2006, when a building boom and post-hurricane reconstruction caused a U.S. drywall shortage that spurred builders to turn to imports.
Homeowners are being told that the best step is to remove the drywall, which amounts to gutting homes or additions where the cheap, imported building material was used. Government agencies are, in effect, advising thousands of people from Florida to California to gut their homes.
Homeowners who had new drywall installed between 2001 and 2008 were instructed to look for blackened copper electrical wiring or air conditioner coils. Inspectors would then test the corrosive conditions in the homes and the drywall.
It's still unclear who will pay for this process. Thousands of homeowners have filed suit against the Chinese manufacturers who made the drywall and the U.S. companies that sold it.
Many of the homes containing the Chinese drywall are in the Southeast. They were constructed after hurricanes destroyed homes in Florida and Louisiana. Some homeowners have filed class action law suits against the manufactures, developers, general contractors, distributors and builders, to seek compensation for their financial loss and health treatment costs.
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