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Chinese Drywall Causing Massive Headaches for Homeowners

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Weston, FLIf you purchased a newly built home in the past 5 years or so, you may have unknowingly purchased a home that is defective. That is because some new homes were built with Chinese drywall, a product that is allegedly toxic. Issues with the Chinese drywall are now coming to light, with more and more people reporting problems in their homes. Some homeowners are now investigating lawsuits against home developers and drywall manufacturers.

Scott Shepherd"During the recent building boom, from 2004 to 2007, there was a shortage of US- manufactured drywall," Scott Shepherd, partner with Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP, says. "Prior to 2004, developers preferred, for economic and logistical reasons, to use drywall manufactured in the US. However, because of building demands during the boom, including the extreme drain on the system caused by Hurricane Katrina, there was a shortage of US drywall and builders began using drywall imported from China. This drywall typically was kept at sea for a few months prior to entering the US.

"It turns out that much of the Chinese drywall included fly ash, a waste material that is a byproduct from power plants using coal. The problem that has developed is that the drywall emits several sulfur gases, including, apparently, hydrogen sulfide. These gases have a strong smell, and have been causing significant damage to items in the home, such as air conditioner coils, electrical and computer wiring, plumbing and even silver picture frames and jewelry. The gases can also be harmful to humans and many reports indicate that the emissions are causing people respiratory discomfort, eye and nose irritation and headaches.

"Most of the drywall that came into the US between 2004 and 2006 arrived at about fifteen ports around the country, including several in Florida, New York, Texas, California and New Orleans. So far, most of the problems that we have seen, and that have been reported in the press, have been in Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and California, although I would expect we will hear more about other areas in the future. Anywhere that there was a problem getting US drywall—which means anywhere there was a high volume of home construction—we will probably hear about problems with Chinese drywall."

If you purchased a newly built home and are not sure whether or not Chinese drywall was used in your home, you may have to have a home inspection done. However, there are a few signs you can watch for that may indicate that Chinese drywall was used in your home. These signs include having to replace components in your air conditioner, plumbing piping that has corroded and turned black, corroded electrical wiring, silver jewelry or picture frames that have turned black and a rotten egg smell. You may also have noticed eye and nose irritations, headaches and respiratory problems.

How quickly these issues present themselves may have a lot to do with the drywall's exposure to moisture.

"People have reported problems for the past year although initially no one was sure what the cause of the problems were," Shepherd says. "A lot of these issues are just starting to manifest now. People may have noticed they were frequently replacing air conditioner parts but not known why, but they knew that they should not have been having these types of problems [such as air conditioner problems] in homes that are new construction."

The lawsuits thus far have been against developers and manufacturers of the drywall. At this stage, it is too soon to tell if there will turn out to be other responsible parties. The principal claim in most of the lawsuits is that the drywall has caused expensive damage to the home, that the drywall itself must be replaced and in some cases that the residents have suffered personal injuries as a result of their exposure. It has yet to be seen if there will be any effect on home values once repairs are made.



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