Thousands of homeowners began to have mysterious problems in their homes in the early 2000s. Some homeowners faced a rotten egg smell, as well as electronics, appliances and plumbing components that mysteriously failed. Many of these homeowners also began experiencing unexplained health problems, including new allergies, sinus issues, sleep apnea, headaches, asthma attacks, chronic coughing and breathing issues.
It turned out that these homeowners had one thing in common: drywall imported from China had been used in their homes. Chinese drywall became very common between 2004 and 2007, driven in large part by the building boom and reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina. The Chinese drywall released sulfur compounds into the air, which caused serious damage to property and put health at risk.
Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 homes throughout the U.S., mostly in the South, had Chinese drywall installed and may develop problems due to chemical emissions. Affected homeowners face significant financial losses and health concerns.
If you are one of the homeowners affected by Chinese drywall, you have certain legal rights. An experienced defective product lawyer at Roberts & Roberts can help you take action to recover compensation for your losses.
Dangers of Chinese Drywall
In 2004, the president of the American Management Resources Corp. (AMRC) began an investigation into strange odors in homes, mysterious health problems and unexplained corrosion of pipes and wires. The initial investigation revealed that the drywall in the homes was the likely cause of the problems.
Pieces of drywall used to construct walls in homes and other buildings generally do not identify where they came from or their country-of-origin. It took until approximately 2006 for investigators to realize that the drywall problems generally seemed to stem from foreign-made drywall, and specifically from the drywall from China.
Once the odors, health problems and corrosion were linked to the drywall in the homes, a number of chemical tests were conducted on the drywall. Various problems appeared, as well as some significant discrepancies when comparing the Chinese drywall to drywall produced in other locations such as the United States. For example:
- Lab comparisons revealed that there were higher levels of pyrite in the Chinese-made drywall as compared with American-made drywall. Pyrite is an iron sulfide mineral, and oxidization of the pyrite in the drywall may have resulted in sulfur compounds being released into the air in homes and buildings where the drywall was used.
- The fly ash used in Chinese drywall was not as clean as the fly ash used in American drywall. Fly ash is a coal byproduct, and while both U.S. and Chinese drywall use the byproduct, the U.S. form is more refined and cleaner. Fly ash degrades when exposed to excessive heat and moisture, and it is possible that this coal byproduct was partly responsible for problems with Chinese drywall.
- Chinese drywall tested positive for Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, which is a bacteria that reduces iron and sulfur. Other types of drywall in homes without problems contained only miniscule levels of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans at nowhere near the levels found in the problem drywall.
Around 500 million pounds of this tainted and chemical-laden Chinese drywall was imported into the United States during a four-year period. The product was used in homes and construction projects in more than 37 different states. Thousands of homeowners unknowingly had this dangerous drywall used to build, repair or remodel their homes, putting their families at risk.
Chinese Drywall Causes Damage to Health and Home
The chemicals in the Chinese drywall did not just stay in the walls but were instead released into the air in homes. People breathed in the toxins, and the chemicals also affected electric wiring, electronics, appliances and plumbing.
Some studies indicated that even short-term exposure to the chemicals released from the drywall could cause a sore throat, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, eye irritation, nausea and chest pain. More serious potential health problems include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Cognitive impairment, including memory loss.
- Chronic coughing.
- Irritability and mood changes.
- Bloody noses.
- Asthma attacks.
Many people were driven from their homes because of the health risks, often forced to find alternative places to live at considerable personal expense. Some faced foreclosure or problems with lenders, experiencing damaged credit as a result. Other homeowners stayed in their homes but coped with property damage problems including:
- Damage to central air conditioning evaporator coils.
- Problems with appliances, including refrigerators and dishwashers.
- Problems with televisions and video game systems.
- Corroded plumbing.
The only solution to the property damage and health issues caused by Chinese drywall is to remove the contaminated drywall and install entirely new drywall. In many cases, the removal of wooden structures and the replacement of plumbing and electrical systems was also required.
Who is to Blame?
Chinese drywall manufacturers not only argued that their drywall was not dangerous but also that courts in the United States did not have jurisdiction over them. In other words, the companies argued that because they weren’t in the U.S. and didn’t sell directly to U.S. customers, people couldn’t sue them here.
Judges have ruled that the drywall companies did market to consumers in the U.S. This means that it may be possible for plaintiffs to take legal action against the Chinese drywall manufacturers to obtain monetary damages in the United States. There are many legal complexities associated with these types of cases, since there are special procedural rules when suing foreign manufacturers.
Homeowners damaged by Chinese drywall may potentially take action against other defendants as well, including foreign subsidiaries of Chinese drywall companies, distributors within the United States, or even the builders and contractors who installed the drywall.
The defective product attorneys at Roberts & Roberts are currently investigating legal claims related to Chinese drywall. To have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney, call us today at 903-597-6000 or contact us online. Your consultation is free and there is no obligation. The call costs you nothing… It could mean everything.
New York Times – Turning Point for Suits Over Chinese Drywall