Chinese Drywall Mess Has Florida Lawmakers Mulling New Regulations

In the wake of the Chinese drywall debacle, Florida state lawmakers are considering bills that would impose new standards for wallboard used in construction in the state. Florida has been the hardest hit of the dozens of states impacted by the Chinese drywall scandal.

Of the more than 2,700 complaints regarding Chinese drywall made to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), most – 1,615 – 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.

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.

A bill scheduled to be debated in the Florida legislature this spring would require the state Department of Health and the Florida Building Commission to come up with new drywall standards. If a piece of drywall contained a high enough level of sulfur, it would be banned from use.

It is likely that any standards imposed by the state would be minimum standards, and would allow for local governments to enact even stricter regulations.

Thousands of people across the country have filed lawsuits over defective Chinese drywall. One single class action lawsuit alone filed against Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. involves nearly 2100 plaintiffs from Florida Mississippi and Alabama, and 600 other defendants. All of the Chinese drywall lawsuits pending in federal court were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in federal court in Louisiana over the summer. The first bellwether trials in the litigation are slated to begin this month.

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