Chinese Drywall Manufacturers Snub CPSC Chair

The Chinese drywall issue was not resolved during a visit to China by the head of the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). According to a report on HousingWire.com, the CPSC had sought a meeting with Chinese drywall manufacturers, but it did not materialize.

On Monday, CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum told Reuters that 13 Chinese drywall manufacturers have not “come to the table to discuss our scientific findings and what, if any, they think their responsibility is to the American homeowner.”

Tenenbaum was in China to announce the appointment of Jeff Hilsgen as the agency’s representative in Beijing — the only overseas office set up by the agency. She also met with China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to discuss consumer product safety.

The Chinese drywall saga has been going on for two years now. Since late 2008, the CPSC has received more than 3,700 reports from residents in 39 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. Sulfurous 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. Some people living with the wallboard have also complained of health problems. The CPSC has recommended that homes built with defective Chinese drywall be gutted.

In November 2009, the CPSC released results from a study that showed “a strong association between homes with problem drywall and the levels of hydrogen sulfide in those homes and corrosion of metals in those homes.”

Thousands of people from across the country have since filed suit over defective Chinese drywall. All of the Chinese drywall lawsuits filed in federal courts have been consolidated in the US District Court in New Orleans under Judge Eldon E. Fallon as part of a multidistrict litigation.

So far, only one Chinese drywall manufacturer – Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. – has offered anything in the way of a solution to the problem. In a settlement announced last fall in the multidistrict litigation, Knauf agreed to fund a pilot remediation program by which 300 homes in four states would be repaired. The settlement agreement calls for Knauf and other named defendants to see that the defective drywall is removed, and replacements made for electrical wiring, appliances including air conditioning, and fixtures damaged by drywall fumes, in accordance with the remediation protocol established by CPSC.

It is hoped that a successful pilot program will lead to the settlement of many more Chinese drywall lawsuits. The settlement unfortunately leaves out more than 5,000 homes tainted with drywall from other Chinese manufacturers.

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