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Robert Trigaux

Chinese drywall: State results months away



Lennarhomesptimes Wake up and good morning. Looks like the defective Chinese drywall problem -- a rotten egg stink, health concerns and the corrosion of metals within affected homes -- is metastasizing slowly to other parts of the country after setting its roots deep in Florida. (Photo: St. Petersburg Times)

The number of homeowners complaining about drywall odors to the Florida health department has swelled to about 150. Want to complain? Here's how. On Monday, Florida’s health department said preliminary tests show there’s no “specific” health hazard associated with the sulfur-based gases coming from the drywall, but the agency is conducting additional tests, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). The findings of the investigation were conducted by Unified Engineering, a private lab. Such tests could take several months to complete. Florida toxicologist David Krause told reporters on a conference call:

“It’s not that we are saying it’s safe. We are moving forward on a much more detailed in-depth study."

The test results released by the state health department on Monday did make one, definitive conclusion: Chinese-made drywall contained strontium sulfide, the Journal said, a material that’s known to have the odor of hydrogen sulfide in moist air. The U.S-made drywall did not contain this material.

Florida health officials have also spoken with health officials in Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama and Washington, after learning that homeowners and home builders in those states were experiencing similar problems.

Tarpon Springs resident Andrew Scott couldn't figure out why he had to replace his air conditioner three times in one year. His builder, Lennar, confirmed that tainted Chinese-made drywall in Scott's and four adjacent townhomes on Hillview Lane emitted sulfuric fumes that corroded the unit's coils and raised an occasional stink. Said Scott to the St. Petersburg Times:

"We would notice odors in the upstairs bathroom. The humidity brings out the sulphur in the walls."

Repairs can be costly, whether the builder agrees to do them or the homeowner takes on the task. "It's economically devastating, and it's emotionally devastating," Florida attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of homeowners, told CNN. It would cost a third of an affected home's value to fix the dwelling, Gonzalez said.

New reports suggest the next crop of Chinese drywall complaints may come from Louisiana, where it is feared large amounts of the drywall may have been used in repairs after Hurricane Katrina.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist 

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


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