July 24, 2009

Is Chinese Drywall Hazardous to Homeowners' Health?

American construction companies used large quantities of Chinese-made drywall over the last five years because it was abundant and cheap. Now many homeowners are complaining that Chinese drywall gives off fumes that corrode metals and sicken people. State and federal authorities are currently investigating whether Chinese drywall poses a direct health risk to people.

More than 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall was imported into the United States between 2004 and 2008. Most of it came into the country in 2006. Washington State has imported nearly 2.5 million pounds of Chinese drywall since January 1, 2006. Complaints about Chinese drywall appear to be concentrated in the Southeast at this time. Chinese drywall has been reported to be present in 21 states thus far, including Washington State.

There are several signs that your home may contain Chinese drywall. You may detect a sulphur, rotten egg, or acid type of smell. The electrical wires connected to outlets may be corroding too rapidly. Air conditioning coils or other HVAC components may be failing too frequently. Silver jewelry and flatware may be tarnishing too quickly. You may be able to locate a “Made in China” stamp on exposed drywall in places like your attic or basement.

If Washington condominium and homeowners associations and owners have been adversely affected by Chinese drywall, they may need to consider filing lawsuits against the manufacturer and distributor of the Chinese drywall and/or against the developer and contractors that constructed their buildings. Those entities may have assets to pay for any damages caused by Chinese drywall or may have purchased insurance policies that cover any damages caused by this product. Participation in class action lawsuits is another option, but those lawsuits usually take much longer to complete than individual lawsuits.