Chinese Drywall Reported In Oregon: How You Can Protect Yourself.

The Portland Business Journal  recently stated that Chinese drywall has been reported in Oregon. In addition, late last week the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) issued a status report on its investigation into the imported drywall. This report states that 5,503,694 sheets of Chinese drywall were imported into the United States during 2006, so it is no surprise that Chinese drywall was used by contractors in Oregon.

Because the CPSC investigation is ongoing, we do not know whether the imported drywall will be recalled. While waiting for the CPSC to complete this report, if you suspect that a building that you occupy was built with defective drywall, you should:

  • Investigate whether your building contains drywall from China. Chinese drywall may have “MADE IN CHINA” printed on its back side (the side facing the studs). In addition, the inner core of Chinese drywall may appear gray in color in comparison to the white inner core of domestically manufactured drywall.
  • Look for corroded metal components throughout the building. Examples include door hardware, fixtures, pipes, wires and other exposed metal throughout the building. Corroded copper piping and copper wires may appear blackened from exposure to sulfur in the drywall.

If you believe that your building contains defective drywall, generally you should:

  • Determine whether the drywall may be affecting your health. The CPSC has reported that the most commonly reported symptoms include irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks. Symptoms that may be related to something in a building may present themselves when you are inside but go away after you leave. If you are suffering from any of these or other symptoms, consult a physician immediately.
  • Inspect the metal components in your building. In Oregon, a certified home inspector may be able to help you conduct an investigation. Of critical importance are components related your building’s electrical and gas systems. Because these systems have the potential to be hazardous to your health or property, they should be routinely inspected and repaired to decrease any risk of failure. Alert your local gas supplier if you believe your gas system has been affected. Likewise, consult a licensed electrical contractor for any issues related to your electrical system. Any inspections or repairs should be thoroughly documented to increase your ability to recover repair costs from those responsible.
  • Submit a Consumer Product Incident Report to the CPSC, either through the CPSC website or by calling the CPSC toll-free at 1-800-638-2772.
  • Contact your state and local authorities to report your concerns and get direction on any help or resources in your area.
  • Contact your insurance company and contractor to report your concerns.
  • Consult with an attorney regarding your legal rights and remedies.

Although we do not yet know whether the CPSC will require a recall of imported drywall, if it does, the repair costs and inconvenience to building owners and occupants will be significant. By taking appropriate steps, building owners may avoid potential hazards and place themselves in a position to recover repair costs should they be necessary.

Chinese Drywall Defects a Growing Concern

Since we first blogged about Chinese drywall, homeowners in at least 19 states, including Washington and California, have reported problems associated with defective drywall.

Late last year, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) began receiving complaints about damage to homes constructed with drywall manufactured in China. The drywall reportedly contains elevated sulfur levels, which have been linked to corrosion and other damage. To address this growing problem, the CPSC established a Drywall Information Center to address consumer concerns about sulfur-tainted drywall. According to the CPSC, 419 reports have been filed. Homeowners commonly complained of a “rotten egg” smell, health concerns, and corroded and damaged metal components in their homes.

On May 21st, the U.S. Senate held hearings on the topic. Louisiana Senator Mary L. Landrieu stated that 550 million pounds of drywall have been imported to the United States from China. She also speculated that more than 100,000 homes could be affected nationwide. In response, Senator Landrieu sponsored the “Drywall Safety Act of 2009,” a bill aimed at banning Chinese drywall imports until the government promulgates appropriate standards.

As Senator Landrieu said during the hearing, “this defective product is not just a concern for homebuilders or homeowners, but is a concern for many other professions in both the public and private sectors.”

What do drywall, dog food and baby formula have in common?

With the widespread use Chinese products, it had to happen sooner or later—a construction defect made in China. According to the Wall Street Journal, gypsum wallboard—otherwise known as drywall—manufactured in China is releasing sulfur gases, which can smell foul and cause corrosion. Apparently the sulfur, a noxious chemical, has been linked to problems with air conditioning systems and wiring in homes built with the sulfur-containing drywall.

So far, South Florida is the only area where homeowners are complaining in significant numbers.

Gypsum, a key component of drywall, is a mineral compound commonly mined from underground deposits or produced as a chemical by-product. In response to the complaints, the manufacturer, Knauf , is purchasing its gypsum from another mine and has begun to test for sulfur. Although sulfur can be harmful to humans, the emission levels reportedly do not exceed the threshold set by the Florida Department of Health. They have, however, been blamed for heating and cooling system failures.

Like the widely-publicized Chinese dog food and baby formula scandals, the sulfur-containing drywall is likely to spawn litigation as homeowners undertake costly repairs to address the corrosion problem and its cause. Hopefully, the tainted drywall continues to distinguish itself from prior defective product scandals in one important respect—no deaths or injuries have been reported.