Concerns Over the Health Effects of Chinese Drywall

The problem with Chinese Drywall is not improving and now, according to a number of real estate attorneys and environmental testing firms, there are at least 20 builders in the southwest Florida area that are known to use Chinese Drywall, reports MSNBC.

CBS4 Miami also reports that one of the builders—Lennar Corporation, says, to date, it has identified about 80 homes in the area which were likely built using the defective Chinese Drywall.  And, yesterday, the Bradenton Herald reported that a class-action suit was filed in Florida’s Sarasota County and complaints registered with the Florida Department of Health increased from 30 to 54.

The Chinese-made drywall contains sulfur, said MSNBC, and plagues houses with odious, rotten egg-like smells.  The sulfur also emits a gas that corrodes metal and which appears to be linked to a variety of wiring, pipe, and air conditioning problems.

And, while some involved in the debacle claim that the defective Chinese Drywall does not pose health and safety problems, consumers are complaining about problems that seem to lift when they are away from the toxic Chinese Drywall.  Also, the Florida Department of Health says that current emission levels from drywall testing pose “no immediate health threat.”  Those exposed to the problem disagree.  Health concerns and health problems reported include an array of respiratory problems, nosebleeds, irritated eyes, and headaches.  Of very serious concern is the possibility that the Chinese Drywall is emitting excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide fumes, which can cause extreme irritation, unconsciousness, and even death.

The defective Chinese Drywall was, for the most part, produced by Knauf, said MSNBC. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China maintains that its defective Chinese Drywall is safe and homeowner damage must be from some other source.  But, yesterday, the Bradenton Herald has reported that Michael Foreman, a construction consultant for Sarasota’s Foreman & Associates, Inc., said the Knauf plasterboard is, in fact, defective.  Foreman also said that a sample he reviewed was found to contain a marking for an outdated standard:  “ASTM C36.”

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization that develops standards for products and materials, said the Bradenton Herald, which explained that the C36 standard was replaced over four years ago with “ASTM C1396.”  The Bradenton Herald also noted a piece of very interesting information:  The C36 drywall was produced in March 2006, two years after that standard was changed.

One homeowner noticed that her jewelry was quickly tarnishing and asked her builder to take a look at the house, said MSNBC.  He told her, “You have what we’re looking for,” said MSNBC, which noted that the builder identified 80 homes with the drywall and is conducting testing at another 40.

Meanwhile, said MSNBC, builders say they rely on subcontractors and suppliers to ensure materials they use are safe and meet Florida building codes, while subcontractors and suppliers say they rely on manufacturers.  Also, the building code has not requirement for drywall inspection by any entity along the chain regardless of the country of origin.

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