Chinese Drywall Probe Also Looking at Domestic Wallboard

The Chinese drywall investigation is being expanded because of allegations that some wallboard produced in the U.S. is causing similar odor and corrosion problems. According to the Associated Press, of roughly 2,100 drywall complaints received by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), about 25 involve homeowners who reported issues with American wallboard.

The problems alleged to have occurred in homes with American wallboard are similar to those attributed to Chinese drywall: a rotten-egg odor that makes occupants sick, corrosion of copper pipes, and ruined TVs and air conditioners. And like the Chinese drywall debacle, the purported problems have sparked lawsuits against American firms, including National Gypsum and Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Corp.

Tests on National Gypsum drywall found in one Florida home found it contained 50 percent gypsum and 50 percent cellulose, an organic compound. Drywall should contain mostly gypsum. According to the Associated Press, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where the tests were performed have theorized that gypsum and cellulose in the drywall is combining with a humid atmosphere and releasing sulfurous gases, causing corrosion of copper, brass and silver.

A spokesperson with National Gypsum told the Associated Press that its own drywall tests found only four percent cellulose. The company maintains that it would be impossible to make wallboard with 50 percent cellulose.

A University of Florida study has also found some possible problems with American drywall, according to the Associated Press. Some U.S. samples tested in the study released sulfur fumes, but at a lower level than the Chinese product taken from homes. However, some American product had higher emissions than some of the new Chinese material, the Associated Press said.

According to the Associated Press, some have theorized that homes with problem drywall were built with both American and Chinese-made material, but because wallboard from China isn’t always labeled, its difficult to tell which is causing problems. It is also possible that in homes built with both types, fumes from Chinese drywall are contaminating American-made wallboard, causing it to emit similar gases.

A spokesperson for the CPSC told the Associated Press that while the bulk of the agency’s investigation is focusing on imported drywall, it is looking at domestically produced wallboard as well.

Meanwhile, the litigation over Chinese drywall is heating up, with the first Chinese drywall lawsuit trial scheduled to start January 25, 2010. In addition, Chinese drywall claimants whose homes were built with wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd have only a few days – December 2 – to join the omnibus class action lawsuit that will be filed against the company on December 9. Knauf Plasterboard has agreed to waive its rights under The Hague Convention for the Service of Process Abroad for homeowners who sign on to this lawsuit by the December 2 deadline.

This agreement will greatly streamline the litigation process for claimants whose homes contain wallboard manufactured by Knauf if they make the deadline. However, the December 2 date is a hard deadline, and the omnibus complaint will not be amended at a later date to add more people. To be eligible for the omnibus lawsuit, claimants must submit pictures or other proof that they have wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard in their homes by December 2, 2009. Any Chinese drywall homeowner interested in becoming a party to this lawsuit must start now by contacting an attorney and arranging to have their home inspected.
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Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, the first law firm to file a federal Chinese drywall lawsuit, is offering assistance to any homeowner interested in joining the Knauf Plasterboard lawsuit. Free consultations are available through the firm’s website at www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

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