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Robert Trigaux

As drywall complaints spread, eye is on China



Wake and good morning. Call this Stinky Drywall, Part 2. As first reported to you here yesterday, state officials are looking at drywall from China as the likely cause of a putrid odor and failed metal devices, following complaints by homeowners in several Florida counties.

The original coverage of the problem focused on South Florida, but, as the Bradenton Herald reports, the state has received about 30 complaints from homeowners in Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, as well as Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Collier counties, said Tim Wallace, Florida environmental health program consultant.

How widespread is the problem? That's not clear but officials with a large building supply company say more than 10-million square feet of the Chinese drywall was imported to southwest Florida in 2006 -- a period during the housing boom when there were severe drywall shortages.

Some of the drywall may have been kept on barges at sea for months awaiting permission for importation to the United States. Could this be a factor by allowing the drywall to soak up all that extra humidity?

Homeowners complained evaporator coils of air-conditioning equipment prematurely failed, were replaced, and failed again, Wallace told the Bradenton newspaper. Sulfur odor has been associated with erosion on copper in electrical outlets, behind the refrigerator and any other places where metal is in the home. The odor causes people to experience mild and moderate respiratory irritation that clears up when they leave the homes, state toxicologist David Krause told the paper.

Stories in both the Bradenton paper and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune cite a specific case of Kristin Culliton. She hasn’t lived in her $331,000 Greenbrook Terrace home in Lakewood Ranch for a year because of a putrid odor she says is caused by drywall from China. She was advised by her doctor to move out when she was pregnant and has now filed a lawsuit in Sarasota County against Taylor Morrison Homes for damages.

The best indicator you have Chinese drywall is a sulfur smell resembling rotten eggs. A Fort Myers TV station, WBBH-TV, interviewed Jack Snider, CEO of AMRC Environmental Testing, who says this is a widespread problem for homes in Southwest Florida. He gets at least five  new calls a month about it. And Dan Reid of Intuitive Environmental Solutions in Fort Myers, told the local News-Press last month that he believes some drywall imported from China during the homebuilding boom years of 2004 and 2005 was made with waste materials from scrubbers on coal-fired power plants.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:23am]


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