Chinese Drywall: Hot Button Issue

An amendment introduced by Reps. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., was added to the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, which calls for the secretary of HUD to consult with the secretary of the Treasury and conduct a study on the effect of contaminated Chinese-made drywall on residential mortgage loan foreclosures.

According to Safeguard Properties, a privately held field services company in Cleveland, Reps. Wexler and Diaz-Balart have requested that at least $2 million in emergency funding from the House Appropriations Committee be provided to the federal agencies in order to ensure they have the resources to complete the crucial testing. The study will look at the presence in residential properties with drywall that was imported from China between 2004 and 2007. It requires these agencies to study the availability of property insurance for homes where Chinese drywall is present.

In a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reps. Wexler and Diaz-Balart urged the agencies to act quickly in testing and determining the health and safety risks posed by Chinese drywall. The letter emphasizes the possibility that the effects of Chinese drywall could worsen with the summer heat and the need for swift action. They also encourage the agencies to coordinate with the Florida Department of Health, which has already conducted some preliminary testing.

“Chinese drywall continues to be a hot-button issue throughout the Southeast,” said Robert Klein, founder and chief executive officer of Safeguard Properties. “Recent legislative activity seeks to investigate and address concerns pertaining to this issue.”

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to hold its first hearing on the issue of tainted drywall, tied to extensive corrosion in hundreds of homes in Florida and elsewhere, and blamed by many homeowners for health problems, according to the company.

The potential scope of the Chinese drywall problem could be huge. A recent Herald-Tribune analysis of shipping records found that more than 550 million pounds of Chinese drywall entered the country through more than a dozen U.S. ports since 2006, enough to build 60,000 average-sized homes.

The report said at least two American drywall manufacturers are also in disputes with Florida homeowners about corrosion and odors in their homes, which contain only domestic wallboard. Both domestic producers, Charlotte, N.C.-based National Gypsum and Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific, have denied their products are to blame.