Florida’s Chinese Drywall Problems May Have Spared Schools

Defective Chinese drywall has not yet turned up in any South Florida schools, according to a recent report on Naples.com. Since the drywall problems surfaced, several Florida school districts, including Collier County, Lee County and Manatee County, have been checking buildings built since 2004 for signs of the toxic building material.

Owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. The Florida Health Department said it has received at least 30 reports of smells and other problems connected with the Chinese drywall issues.  About 2 percent of those involved health complaints.

Reports indicate that the drywall emits a sulfur compound that corrodes wiring, air conditioning coils and other metals, and may cause health problems from chronic exposure.  It has been determined that the drywall responsible for these problems was imported from China.

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.  One official with a large building supply company recently told a Florida newspaper that more than 10-million square feet of the Chinese drywall was imported to southwest Florida during that time.

According Naples.com, no Chinese drywall has been found in schools built during the housing boom years.  According to Naples.com, Collier County School District has reviewed 18 projects, including eight new schools   Lee County surveyed  19 projects in December, and  Manatee County completed its check Wednesday. All three determined they were not recipients of the suspect drywall, Naples.com said.

Representatives from Martin, Sarasota, Broward and Palm Beach districts told Naples.com  they had no reason to believe they received any Chinese-made drywall because of certain school construction requirements. Officials from Miami-Dade, Pinellas and St. Lucie school districts could not be reached for comment, the report said.

One reason that Chinese drywall might not be in schools is that such buildings use fire-retardant drywall.  That variety may not have been imported from China, but it is impossible to say for sure.  Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, the company at the center of Florida’s drywall problems, has not said if it imported this type of drywall to the U.S., Naples.com said.

Meanwhile, many Florida homeowners are still coping with their own drywall problems. According to Naples.com, most of the complaints received by the health department have come from Lee and Manatee counties.  Of those,  six came from one street in Bradenton located in a Lennar community called Heritage Harbour.

Naples.com said the health department is in talks with Lennar and Knauf to try to find a solution to the drywall problems. It is also working with the Southeast region of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the report said.

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