The housing bubble and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have created a national problem.
The seemingly insatiable demand for real estate led to a shortage of gypsum board, also known as drywall. The drywall shortage resulted in an intense search for an alternative supply of drywall. Suppliers ended up importing a majority of their drywall from a Chinese firm called Knauf-Tianjin. From 2001 until 2008, gypsum board from this firm was used to build and renovate residential properties all across the country.
Over six million sheets of drywall were imported from Knauf-Tianjin according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission .
Complaints about the Chinese drywall have been coming into the CPSC’s offices for some time. The consumers filing the complaints overwhelmingly report that their homes were built between 2006 and 2007. Since this was after Hurricanes Charley and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, respectively, it would make sense that the need for imported drywall would be even greater than usual.
The CPSC has received over 3,800 complaints from residents of 42 states. 52% of the complaints have come from Florida, with Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama not far behind.
Homeowners affected by the Chinese drywall have reported several different symptoms, including headaches, asthma attacks, nose bleeds and respiratory problems. This would seem to indicate the presence of toxic substances within the drywall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not as yet issued a definitive report to that effect, although it is considered to be a moot point by most. Eleven deaths have been popularly linked to the Chinese drywall, but the CDC denies any connection. Toxic mold claims have been reported, but the precise cause of the symptoms is still unknown.
The symptoms attributed to the toxic drywall have been most heavily reported in southeastern states. These states have high heat and humidity for several months each year. While the majority of complaints originate from these states, Chinese drywall claims have been filed from as far away as Colorado. This reveals that the toxic drywall is a problem that is national in scope.
Knauf-Tianjin is repairing some of the homes that were built with the toxic drywall, but lawsuits have been filed against suppliers. In June of 2010, a family of four from Florida won a $2.46 million judgment against Banner Supply, which procured the toxic drywall. Armin Seifart and Lisa Gore alleged that the company knowingly sold defective drywall to builders in the Miami area, where they live.
They further alleged Banner Supply made a deal with Knauf-Tianjin to conceal the problems with the drywall. Despite the judgment, Banner attorneys say they are considering an appeal. Knauf has reportedly been seeking settlements with firms who bought their drywall.
This drywall damages the home as much as the people inhabiting it.
A noticeable symptom is significant corrosion of the metal used in electrical fixtures, appliances, plumbing and air conditioning units. Another symptom is a strong smell of rotten eggs. Obviously, these conditions lower the resale value of the home and create additional repair expenses. One estimate puts the number of American homes built with this Chinese drywall at 500,000.
The Florida case is considered to be a bellwether of how other cases could proceed. The trend is definitely moving against Knauf and the supply firms who bought their toxic drywall.
Homeowners who have the symptoms associated with this drywall are strongly urged to have it tested immediately. They are also advised to discover if they are eligible for any financial compensation or replacement drywall.
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