Before You Buy: The Hazards of Chinese Drywall in Florida Homes

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 and strontium.

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 consumers reported 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.

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