Chinese Drywall Banned in Virginia Beach

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Another Virginia community has banned the use of Chinese drywall. The ban, adopted unanimously by the Virginia Beach city council last night, comes a week after the Norfolk city council adopted a similar measure.

Virginia is just one of several states where homeowners have complained about Chinese drywall that fills homes with a putrid, “rotten-eggs” odor, causes metals to corrode, and leads to sinus and respiratory problems in people living with the material. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. imported roughly 309 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2007.

Last week, during a Senate subcommittee hearing convened to discuss the issue, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) voiced concerns that the Chinese drywall problem could turn out to be much worse than first thought. “I fear that we’re just at the tip of an iceberg of what could be a… national disaster, that is both a health care disaster and for many families is going to be a financial disaster,” Warner said.

Though many people – including some federal officials investigating the problem – have reported respiratory and sinus symptoms while inside homes built with Chinese drywall, it’s not clear exactly what health hazards might be posed by the material. Several days before the Senate hearing, the Environmental Protection Agency released results of tests it conducted that compared Chinese drywall to American-made material. The tests found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint in the Chinese drywall that were not present in the American wallboard. During last week’s hearing, an official from the Centers for Disease Control testified that the symptoms reported so far are similar to those found when sulfur compounds have contaminated industrial settings.

The uncertainty surrounding the Chinese drywall had already prompted the city of Norfolk, Virginia to ban the material last week. Last night, a similar ban passed unanimously in Virginia Beach city council. According to WVEC.com, councilman Jim Wood said the new ban would be enforced on the honor system. “Right now you’re not allowed to use a lot of substances in construction. You can’t use lead based paint, you can’t use asbestos,” Wood said. “So the city doesn’t go out and specifically inspect for that, but you know you’re not supposed to use it.”

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Wood also characterized the city’s ban on Chinese drywall as a “stopgap” measure put in place while federal regulators investigate the material’s hazards. As we reported yesterday, a team from the Consumer Products Safety Commission is expected to arrive in Virginia in the next week or so to start testing homes with Chinese drywall.

According to WAVY.com, the Virginia Beach Chinese drywall ban becomes effective today.

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