Broward County Wants Chinese Drywall Disaster Declaration

One Florida county is seeking a disaster declaration because of Chinese drywall. In seeking the declaration from Gov. Charlie Crist, officials in Broward County said Chinese drywall has impacted some sections of the county as badly as a hurricane might.

A disaster declaration would make federal and state financial assistance to homeowners in Broward County whose homes have been ruined by Chinese drywall.

Of the more than 2,700 complaints regarding Chinese drywall made to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), most – 1,630– have come from Florida. 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. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

According to a report on the Sun-Sentinal’s Web site, Broward County’s request for a disaster declaration comes a week after a similar one was lodged by the city of Parkland.

“There are so many homeowners who are underwater on their property and not getting any relief through no fault of their own,” Commissioner Stacy Ritter, told the Sun-Sentinel. “Hopefully, this will give them some ability to get back in their homes and live there safely.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Robert Wexler (D-Florida) had also asked Gov. Crist to declare a state of emergency over the drywall disaster. But at the time, the Governor said he would push federal agencies to conduct air sample tests to help the state determine whether a health advisory is warranted.

Last summer, tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency found that Chinese-manufactured drywall contained elevated levels of strontium sulfide, as well as the presence of several organic compounds associated with the production of acrylic paint that were not present in samples of U.S.-made drywall. Other tests released in November by the CPSC of 51 homes confirmed that the presence of hydrogen sulfide is the essential component that causes copper and silver sulfide corrosion found in Chinese drywall homes. Federal investigators are still trying to determine what health risks exposure to drywall gases might pose.

Chinese-made wallboard poured into the U.S. between 1999 and 2007 because of the high demand created by the housing boom. Imports accelerated when the rebuilding that followed Hurricane Charley in Florida in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005, created a drywall shortage. According to an earlier Wall Street Journal report, some 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall was imported to the U.S. during the housing boom. That means as many as 100,000 homes throughout the country could have been built with the material.

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