The prisoners of drywall
Thousands of homeowners believe that imported Chinese drywall is making them sick and destroying their property. They’re awaiting government tests to conclude whether the drywall is a health hazard. And while staying could ruin the health of their families, walking away from their homes could ruin their credit.
Denise and Keith Cramer stand with their son outside their Cape Coral, Fla., home, which they say is filled with tainted Chinese drywall. © Chip Litherland for the Wall Street Journal
Shortly after buying their home in Cape Coral, Fla., in 2006, Keith and Denise Cramer noticed a peculiar acidic smell they thought was wet paint. The odor never left.
There were other strange occurrences. Chrome-plated faucets and showerheads became pitted or turned black. The central air-conditioning unit faltered and failed. Their baby son, Gavin, suffered frequent ear and upper respiratory infections, and Gavin and Denise got rashes.
The Cramers — along with thousands of other homeowners in Florida and elsewhere — now believe that imported Chinese drywall is making them sick and destroying their property. The drywall, which is used in walls and ceilings, is emitting sulfur-compound gases that homeowners have described as giving off a sour or “rotten egg” odor. Many blame the fumes for eye, skin and breathing irritation and nosebleeds, as well as the corrosion of copper pipes, electrical wiring and air conditioners.
On our blog, "Listed": Lawsuits over Chinese drywall piling up
The Cramers say that if government tests conclude the Chinese drywall is a health hazard, they will be left with a wrenching choice: “We will have to either ruin our son’s life by staying, or ruin our credit by walking away from the home,” says Keith Cramer, 34.
An estimated 100,000 houses across the country, most built in 2006 and 2007, may be affected, based on the 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall — also known as plasterboard or gypsum board — believed to have entered the U.S. during that period. The drywall is being investigated by numerous agencies, including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state health departments.
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If the agencies conclude a “substantial” electrical, fire or health hazard exists, they could issue a recall or other action. More than 800 complaints from 23 states have been filed at the CPSC’s Drywall Information Center.
Experts estimate it would cost about $100,000 to pull out bad drywall and replace corroded electrical wiring and appliances in an average-sized home, and the problem is shaping up as a costly disaster for homeowners and the battered housing industry. Many homeowners are hoping the federal government will step in with some sort of aid similar to that provided for victims of hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as a moratorium on mortgage payments.
Others are staking their hopes on lawsuits against homebuilders and the drywall manufacturers and distributors. Many of the suits are being consolidated in federal court in New Orleans. But suing foreign-based manufacturers for liability is difficult and complicated, legal experts say.
A few builders are already taking action. Lennar Corp. has set aside almost $40 million to fix 400 houses in Florida and is ripping out the drywall in many homes throughout the state, the Miami-based homebuilder said in a securities filing last month. Some other builders are making similar repairs.
While Chinese drywall was initially thought to have been used mainly in Florida and Louisiana, complaints have been pouring in from many other states. Colleen Nguyen, 41, of Virginia Beach, Va., says she, her husband and three girls moved out of their waterfront home built in 2006 and into a trailer last April for three months on the recommendation of their pediatrician. Their computers, phones and microwaves kept breaking down, and the circuit-breaker kept tripping, they say. They are suing their homebuilder and the drywall subcontractor. The cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Va., recently banned builders from using Chinese drywall in construction.
Nguyen says the family left their belongings behind in the house because the odor had permeated the bedding and upholstery. “I won’t expose my children to it until they can explain what it is,” she says. “We have not had a bloody nose since the day we moved out.”
One major manufacturer of the Chinese drywall, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., says its tests indicate that its products aren’t harmful. Testing found that carbon disulfide and carbonyl sulfide are being emitted by some of its drywall, but not at levels that would damage health, says Phillip T. Goad, principal toxicologist and partner at the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health in North Little Rock, Ark. The center is a private company hired by Knauf Tianjin that consults and does testing for corporations and government agencies.
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David Krause, state toxicologist for the Florida Department of Health, says that the department’s preliminary tests indicated Chinese drywall is emitting sulfur-compound gases, but adds that the tests weren’t designed to quantify the rate of emissions. The CPSC plans to measure the amount of sulfide gases emitted by various types of drywall, and will work with other governmental agencies to determine whether they are at harmful levels, Krause says.
I think they should replace the "In God We Trust" with "The God Almighty Buck" After all, It is the bottom line in every retail, city, state, and back door deal within our own government. Safty is the last concern, strike that, is of no concern. Your republicans are for big business, and now the dems are falling in right behind them (hundreds of billions spent on recovery, and not one dollar went to helping people) Obama's help the homeowners plan is a joke..it was to service millions, its helped under 40,000 to date..and why, Its still the decision of a major bank who gets the help. Even though it was your money that bailed them out..ceo's who drove their company's onto to the brink of bankruptcy are back to business as usual with millions back in their pockets...get used to it. The U.S ( i wont see it my lifetime) is going to be a great country for back door politicians, and the rich, unfortunatly, the poor will be the only ones left after that. Middle class people are being driven to extinction.. This is where we are heading. Untill this changes. drywall and China is the least of our problems.
I truly feel sorry for all the folks that bought or built these homes; trusting their builder to use the right products. Now, they're stuck -- can't get insurance on the home, are getting sick and if they let the home go back to the lender -- ruin their credit.
I imagine it would cost 15K or better to get the average home re-rocked, painted and the ceiling popcorn installed.
Terrible! Someone needs to pay for this, plus damages -- the builder--supplier--distributor--and China. (if they all haven't already filed bankruptcy)
You may not be able to 'buy American' but you can surely avoid buying products 'made in China' ....not all wars are fought with weapons....financial ruin topples governments throughout history....so get a clue.....chinese drywall, lead paint in children's toys, filler in baby formula leading to fatalities....I wouldn't buy a dish made in China!!!
An American Gal
Maybe, if we bomb the Chinese embassy, in America, they will get the message loud and clear.
Let the scientist and company executives and defense lawyers that believe nothing is wrong with these houses move their family into them and lets see what happens. I think not ! or they would be buying these houses up on the cheap.
another easier option but far more time consuming and potentially more deadly would be to bring in some termites, start with the main truss of the house and of course exterior walls. or hmm- in Florida and easier fix but you need a place to stay would be to mold the place- soak the walls everyday (explain to yourself you are trying to wash the nasty smell you have to live with which seems to be everywhere, then if you can go live with a friend for the summer, comeback and do the mold testing and file claims. If you chose option A as explained above(quickest option) buy an ozone odor killer (a couple of them) with uv (commercial one) and kill the odor mold and smell everyday (run for at least an hour) making sure you are out of the house while you do it and at least an hour afterward. Do this till super bowl day vacation plan. Fightback America use you brain.
Georgia Pacific had another problem product years ago. They made roof sheathing that turned black and fell apart in your attic. I think they finally made good on the product with replacement roofs.
I personally don't know what the problem is with this dry wall. Companies have been making it for decades. It is basically made from a natural product called gypsum. So I guess there must be some additive that is causing the problem.
WHY ARE WE IMPORTING ANYTHING FROM A COMMUNEST COUNTRY!!!
THEY WILL KILL THERE OWN PEOPLE WITHOUT BLINKING THERE EYE.
DO YOU REALLY THINK THEY CARE ABOUT OUR WELLFARE,HEATH,OR LIFE!!!!
KEEP IT IN THE U.S.A. IT'S TIME TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!