Habitat for Humanity has begun investigating around 50 New Orleans homes it built following Hurricane Katrina amid concerns that they contain potentially defective Chinese drywall. According to a report by ProPublica, the organization has already confirmed that five houses have Chinese drywall and are exhibiting problems associated with the product, such as corroded electrical wiring.
Most of the Habitat houses raising concerns are located in the Musicians Village, a development built to help bring musicians back to the city after the hurricane, ProPublica said. Three homeowners in the Village told reporters from ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune of a range of problems, from failed appliances and electronics to corroded metals and jewelry. They also complained of respiratory problems, irritated eyes and other symptoms. At least one homeowner said she had been complaining to Habitat for more than a year about her issues.
When one of the reporters visited homes that Habitat originally said were made with American drywall, he found that at least three had wallboard that was clearly stamped â€œMade in China.â€, ProPublica said. Habitat says it purchased that drywall from Interior Exterior Building Supply, known as INEX, believing it was American-made. But as ProPublica points out, INEX is known to have sold defective Chinese drywall made by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. in Louisiana.
Other drywall used by Habitat in post-Katrina homes came from a stockpile of Taishan Gypsum Co. wallboard the group purchased in 2007. According to ProPublica, Habitat has said that testing it had done on the drywall showed it to be safe. As a result, the group continued using the Taishan drywall through 2009, long after other builders had stopped.
Despite the fact that it is investigating 50 homes it built in New Orleans, a Habitat spokesperson told ProPublica that there are no plans to systematically inspect a total of 200 houses it built with the Chinese drywall. In fact the group continues to insist that the Chinese drywall it used was safe. However, the spokesperson said Habitat will look into complaints made by other homeowners if contacted.
Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received more than 3,000 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances.
The CPSC says the only way to fix Chinese drywall homes is to remove both the wallboard and the electrical wiring and other components. But according to ProPublica, Habitat will not say if it will follow such a protocol f it confirms that houses it built have tainted drywall.