06 June 2009

Chinese drywall stinks!

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has a new section on their website dedicated to address concerns about Chinese-made drywall used in homes in the years 2006 and 2007. How widespread a problem this is remains to be seen. So far, there have been 365 complaints coming from 18 states and the District of Columbia.

From Consumer Reports:
Tests of the Chinese-made drywall conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that it contains at least three materials not found in drywall produced in the U.S. The tested drywall contained sulfur, strontium at levels ten times as high as in U.S. drywall and two other organic compounds generally found in acrylic paint that have not been detected in any U.S.-made wallboard.

“We now know there are three things in there that aren’t in other drywall samples,” said Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) who has been working to provide homeowners with relief. “We’ve got the ‘what’ and now we need the ‘why’—and, how do we fix it? In the end, I think all this stuff is going to have to be ripped out.”
People are noticing a rotten egg smell and that their copper plumbing and air conditioning coils are turning black. Clearly, that's from the elevated sulfur levels in the drywall. It's important to remember that this new cry is being raised by personal injury lawyers, so let the exaggerated claims begin.

So remember, there have been 365 complaints from people in 18 different states. But check out this copy from a personal injury attorney who specializes in Chinese drywall litigation:
The Chinese drywall housing crisis is spreading across this country. Tens of thousands of homeowners are suffering from contamination in their homes causing health problems and plunging property values. Defective Chinese drywall wrecks electrical systems, air conditioning systems, and exposed metal throughout your home. The sulfur contamination causes a terrible odor that will not go away, and creates a corrosive atmosphere that requires immediate attention. The members of our legal team are fighting for our clients across the country, including the battleground states of Florida and Virginia. Hidden legal deadlines in the construction or closing documents are shutting off many victims from making any recovery for this catastrophe. Don't let your dream home become a permanent nightmare: contact us for immediate legal assistance. 
I don't doubt for a second that this is a real issue and I'm not questioning that it's going to need to be fixed. But can we please proceed calmly? The sulfur is behind the rotten egg smell, but sulfur won't kill you. The potential problem here is the strontium levels, but strontium exposure doesn't have any glamorous symptoms. I'd be curious to know how it got there in the first place. It sounds like our great trading partners to the east are using fly ash to make drywall.

I know it's a lot to ask, but since I've already asked for calm, can we please learn a lesson from this too? First, it was lead in the toys. Then it was melamine in the dog food and baby formula. Cheap stuff from China has proven itself yet again, to be no bargain. Now, what steps can we take to avoid a repeat of this situation. Anyone? Anyone?


  1. Paul here is my take on the subject. Rather than concentrate on the source, should we not be looking at the cause.

    For example, you have a Senator (in our case it wud be an M.P.) pointing his finger at 1,306,313,812 Chinese rather than at the Government Agency who is suppose to protect the Consumer but......who has failed miserably. Doubtfully 'they' will never be held accountable for their negligence.

    I could ramble on about Unions, Consumer Spending etc. etc., but in a nutshell until we realize and accept WE ourselves are the cause; the problem will never be solved and will continue.

    How about that for doom and gloom on a beautiful Saturday. I'm off now to do some gardening.

  2. In Florida, the sudden appearance of this flawed drywall is being blamed on rebuilding efforts after the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. But that doesn't hold any water because the problem drywall is showing up in homes build in 2006 and 2007. The builder madness that fueled the recent housing boom (and now bust) is at the bottom of this I'm sure.

    In an attempt to squeeze as much money out of the McMansions that were sprouting like mushrooms, builders made every attempt possible to cut construction costs. I was in the middle of this and saw it first hand. I never got real involved in new construction because I couldn't compete price wise. $700,000 homes were being built left and right and I can remember getting requests for proposals that had budgets of $1500 for a kitchen in a $700,000 home. I can only imagine the other corners that were cut.

    There is plenty of blame to go around but what all of these dropped balls have in common is a short-sightedness, a complete inability to think long range. That's a societal problem that goes wide and it goes deep.

    I can remember thinking that the skimpy supply budgets for these boom houses were immoral. What defied my belief completely was that people stood in line to buy them.

    Now I'm just running my mouth. Brenda, you succeeded in getting a rise out of me again. Enjoy your gardening!

  3. A US based company called Serious Materials manufactures an incredible, green, alternative drywall product.

    Totally agree with Brenda's comments. Best case scenario might be if the fix for this problem involved more conscious conscience and less 'save now spend even more later' shenanigans.

  4. A furniture store here in Ottawa has a new radio ad bashing Chinese-made furniture.

    Dangerous products coming out of China are becoming increasingly common. Or maybe they've always been dangerous, but people are just cluing into it now....

    I guess the main problem is that Chinese-made products often look good and are almost always a lot cheaper than North American-made products. And I admit, I've bought Chinese-made products for that reason. Funny though -- somebody gave us dog treats for our dogs that are a product of China, and I won't give them to the dogs!!

    It'll be interesting to see what happens with this Chinese drywall. It would suck to have your entire house pulled apart because your drywall is stinky.


  5. I blame the suburban impulse Mike. There's a bizarre idea that the good life exists in a cul-de-sac adn it's available on a payment plan. Send me the link to Serious Materials if you would.

  6. It would stink Kelly, literally. What bothers me though is how the whole thing's being led by personal injury attorneys. It needs to be investigated to see if it's a real problem or a collection of anecdotes. The the actual threat needs to be assessed and a solution found. I fear that this will never come down from the hysterical heights of "I was wronged and you need to pay me."

  7. "There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey."

    We see a lot of things in Hawaii that come in directly from China, and it *is* scary -- there is a big difference between a U.S. manufacturer that has parts/products made in China and a chinese manufacturer.

  8. Great opening quote Adrienne, whose is it? We're a big port here too and we see the stuff right off the boats as well. It goes against every fiber of my being to deal in generalities about other countries, but I'm with you on this one.

  9. Hey Paul,
    A couple of questions... 1) Does the consumer "know" they are buying Chinese drywall? 2) Is there any standard in the building industry (or international codes) that require disclosure of this product? 3) Who is selling it? Home Depot, Builders' Supply, who?

    For the clueless consumer who buys into a home that may have these stinky issues in years to come, this is a problem. The codes which sometimes seem overly picky are there to protect so that is where the remedy should be. Also, although litigation is never the preferred method of remedying these kinds of issues, it should make some think twice before they try to use shoddy materials or engage in undesirable building practices. You and I would do a little investigating but then we are quite smart, aren't we??

  10. Ming! Long time no hear. I hope things are going well for you.

    The drywall in question appears to have had a brand name and it was sold through 84 Lumber and Georgia Pacific. It was called "Toughrock" and there's a lawsuit proceeding in Florida about it now. I have some more information about it for you, and I'll e-mail it to you directly. Thanks for checking in.

  11. Quote from John Ruskin ... not that I walk around quoting obscure literature all day like some dork on CSI, but I have that one on a sticky on my desktop that I look at whenever someone comes into our showroom, and looks at our imported custom cabinetry from Italy, and asks if it is priced less than Home Depot ... which happens about once a month. :)

  12. Tell me about it. Unfortunately, I hear it more often than once a month. Ugh.

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  14. Cynthia,

    The kind of sleazy, personal injury attorney advertisement in the disguise of a "helpful" website is not helping to remedy this situation. Might lawsuits be a useful tool to rectify and clarify this situation? You bet. However, having personal injury lawsuits take the lead in an investigation is a sure way to cause even more harm. If you want to be helpful, be helpful. Exagerrating the situation, whipping people into a frenzy and making all manner of irrational claims is counter productive at best.

    Please find somewhere else to chase ambulances, your attempts to enrich yourself from other peoples' suffering is most unwelcome here.


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