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Robert Trigaux

Chinese drywall concern prompts federal bill



Wake up and good morning. Who better than two legislators from two emerging ground zero states awash in homes made with nasty-smelling drywall imports should push a bill called the Drywall Safety Act of 2009 seeking a recall and temporary ban on Chinese-made drywall? It's believed to be emitting unpleasant, sulfurous odors and causing unusual air-conditioner, wiring and plumbing corrosion problems in homes from Florida to Louisiana.

Billnelsonsenator For months, this Venture blog has tracked the growing reports of drywall problems, focused initially in southwest Florida but spreading statewide and into other states. Builders dealing with the issue (and some facing lawsuits) include Miami's Lennar Corp., Taylor Morrison, WCI Communities, Meritage, Tousa Homes, Ryland Homes, Standard Pacific and Aubuchon Homes. Here are some highlights from that coverage.

A bill from Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., asks the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct a study in conjunction with the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Environmental Protection Agency, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Nelson and Landrieu (see photos) want the study to include at least 10 samples of drywall that was imported from China during 2004 through 2007 and used in residential dwellings in the United States. The study should include at least one sample of drywall from residences located in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia, according to the bill's text. And the measure asks the secretaries of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development to provide mortgage relief and other assistance to affected homeowners, though the costs would be borne by makers of problematic materials and not U.S. taxpayers.

MaryLandrieusenatorlouisiana A Sarasota Herald-Tribune analysis of shipping records showed that since 2006, at least 550 million pounds of drywall from China entered the country, enough to build more than 60,000 homes. The amount offloaded in Florida could build 36,000 homes. Landrieu's involvement stems from the Chinese drywall that entered through the Port of New Orleans in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The same analysis identified enough to build 6,500 homes.

How can you tell if your home might have Chinese drywall in it? Here are some general symptoms to look for:

* Your home or condominium may have a sulfur, or rotten egg type smell, especially when the windows, and doors are all closed, and the water is not running.

* Since moving into the house, a homeowner or their family may have experienced symptoms of severe allergies, nose bleeds, or upper respiratory problems. If the homeowner leaves the home for an extended period of time, these symptoms may disappear.

* The home or condominium air conditioning unit may have suffered repeated corrosion of its coils.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission in February began investigating complaints about Chinese drywall, focusing on whether the sulfur-based gases emitted from the drywall are corroding household wiring and posing a potential safety hazard. At the time, the agency said it could order a halt in further sales of certain drywall products if it determines there's a safety hazard.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reports, the CPSC sent four additional staffers to Florida from its compliance, toxicology and electrical engineering departments in Washington, D.C. Those specialists joined field investigators in assessing homes in Florida and returned with samples to test.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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