Legislation Calls for Chinese Drywall Recall

Two U.S. Senators from Florida and Louisiana have sponsored legislation aimed at initiating a recall of Chinese drywall. The legislation filed by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, both Democrats, also calls for an immediate, temporary ban on some types of drywall from China.

As of last week, the Florida Health Department had received at least 155 complaints about Chinese drywall that produces a “rotten eggs” odor in homes. The fumes from the drywall have also been linked to corroding metals in many of the homes, and people living with the material have reported sinus and respiratory problems. Many Florida homeowners have had to leave their homes because the Chinese drywall has made them unlivable, and some builders in the state are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.

Unfortunately, it is becoming apparent that problems involving defective Chinese drywall go far beyond Florida. Last week, a Virginia builder, The Dragas Companies, confirmed that some of the homes it built contain Chinese drywall. The company is in the process of inspecting nearly every one of its homes in two developments in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, and is also paying to fix homes with imported drywall and helping residents relocate for a few months while the work is being done. According to the consumer group America’s Watchdog, drywall from China was likely used in the Deep South, the Midwest, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, British Columbia, and even Hawaii.

According to a statement from Sen. Nelson, between 60,000 to 100,000 homes nationwide may contain the tainted drywall. In Florida alone, an estimated 36,000 homes are believed to contain Chinese-made drywall. Both he and Sen. Landrieu say their legislation is aimed at jump-starting a process to help affected homeowners with the costs of repairs or replacing the defective drywall.

In addition to a recall and import ban, the legislation calls on the Consumer Products Safety Commission to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to determine the level of hazard posed by certain chemicals and unidentified organic compounds in the drywall.

As we reported earlier this month, the Florida Health Department released preliminary results from tests of three samples of Chinese drywall. Those tests found that the material contained higher levels of sulfuric and organic compounds than an American sample tested. The three Chinese samples all contained traces of strontium sulfide while the American sample did not. Strontium sulfide is a gray powder that emits a “rotten eggs” odor when exposed to moist air.

The three Chinese samples also contained hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide. All of these compounds are potentially toxic, and carbon disulfide in liquid form is extremely flammable. These were also found in the American sample, but could have been contaminated by the other samples, as all had been shipped together, the report said.

Finally, the report said the tests found that Chinese drywall gave off a sulfur odor when exposed to extreme heat and moisture. The report recommended further testing to determine whether the organic or sulfur compounds detected were to blame for the problems seen in Florida homes.

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