Florida Congressman Asks FTC, Trade Rep. to Join Drywall Probe

Yet another lawmaker is calling for a federal probe of Florida’s Chinese drywall problems. According to a statement released by his office, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, wants both the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the drywall issues.

As we reported last month, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, had asked both the Consumer Products Safety (CPSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate Chinese drywall that emits foul-smelling sulfur fumes. The drywall has not only left many homes with a putrid smell, but has also caused the corrosion of air conditioning coils and other metals. The situation is so bad that some Florida residents have had to move out of their homes. Others have spent hundreds – even thousands of dollars – to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.

Shortly after Sen. Nelson made his request, the CPSC opened a drywall probe. In a letter, Rep. Buchanan asked the USTR and the FTC to join the CPSC’s investigation. “It is possible that the FTC and USTR can play a helpful and constructive role in the resolving this growing problem,” Rep. Buchanan said.

“Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which I represent, has some of the highest concentrations of imported Chinese drywall found so far,” wrote Rep. Buchanan. “Some homeowners have complained about the foul odors generated by this imported drywall, expressed concern that it might be a threat to the health of young children in these homes, and noted that the drywall may have damaged other aspects of their homes, such as the framing or electrical wiring.”

According to the statement from Buchanan’s office, the Congressman sent the agencies a series of news articles in the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune outlining the Chinese drywall’s impact on homeowners in Florida. He urged the agencies to review the articles and implement any necessary responses.

The Florida Health Department has received nearly 100 complaints about homes with defective Chinese drywall. A dozen homes have been tested so far, and results are expected sometime this month. At a forum last week, the department’s chief toxicologist said that most of the homes investigated so far were built since 2004, though one was built in 2001. The complaints come from 14 counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, St. Lucie, Pinellas, Collier, Dade, Citrus, Lake, Hillsborough, Highlands, Palm Beach and Broward.

Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2004 and 2006 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China. Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during Florida’s construction boom years of 2004-2005. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf Group, is the company at the focus of Florida’s drywall problems.

Last month, Lennar Homes, one of the builders who has acknowledged using the Chinese drywall in Florida, said air quality tests it commissioned found that the material was emitting three sulfide gases that were likely causing the smell and corrosion problems – carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide, a particularly dangerous compound with a characteristic rotten-eggs smell, was not found in Lennar’s air tests, but it was found in previous testing that the company conducted on the Chinese drywall itself. At the time, Lennar said the compounds coming from the drywall could have caused the metal corrosion seen in many of the homes.

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