In the final walkthroughs before closing on a house, future homeowners
look for tangible signs of damage or decay: no leaks from septic tanks,
no cracks in the windows and doors, and no broken or missing roof shingles.
More difficult to spot are the hidden dangers that are only revealed upon
occupancy. In Florida, defective drywall has plagued homeowners since
the mid-2000s when major hurricanes, combined with the housing boom, created
a building surge that dramatically increased demands for drywall materials.
With domestic drywall supplies running low, nearly 500 million pounds of
Chinese drywall was imported, up from less than 2 million the year before.
Soon, state health departments began receiving reports of sulfur and carbon
disulfide odors and erosions of electrical systems. When the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
began forensic inspections, tainted drywall quickly became a suspect.
By 2009, the CPSC had received more than 1500 reports from homeowners
in 30 states and southern states with higher humidity such as Florida
were particularly affected. Finally, EPA tests confirmed what many had
suspected: imported drywall from China contained excessive levels of sulfur
What Are the Signs of Contaminated Drywall?
For those with contaminated drywall installed in their homes, warning signs
include a rotten egg smell, corrosion or blackening of metal items within
the walls, and frequent failures of air conditioning units as well as
other household appliances that are attached to the walls. Moreover, many
harmful respiratory reactions such as difficulty breathing and sinus infections along with lingering
coughs and sore throats. These symptoms tended to lessen in severity or
disappear altogether when the occupants left their homes temporarily or
moved away. Researchers suspect that the cause of illnesses may be due
to the fumigants that are sprayed on drywall imported from China, as well
as the material that the drywall is made out: a coal byproduct called
"fly ash" that is less refined than the materials used in the
U.S. to manufacture drywall.
Holding Manufacturers Accountable
Unfortunately, homeowners who were affected often confronted obstacles
when they attempted to hold the manufacturers accountable. Countries rarely
recognize court judgments from other nations, and while U.S. consumers
were able to sue the American subsidiary of a foreign manufacturer, in
the case of Chinese drywall, the U.S.-based defendants did not possess
enough money or assets to pay the claims. For those affected, an added
blow came when insurance companies began canceling coverage to many
Florida homeowners with Chinese drywall in their homes.
Recently, hope for victims suffering in unlivable homes came in the form
of settlements in Louisiana federal court when
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon approved five settlements that included more than 10,000 homeowners for
more than $1 billion. This judgment forces those responsible such as distributors,
builders and insurers to appropriately compensate homeowners for the damage.
Today, fixing a home affected by defective drywall can cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars. Because your home and your health are valuable,
if you suspect the presence of Chinese-manufactured drywall, call The
Pittman Firm today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.