During the construction boom and after the damage from hurricane Katrina, thousands of homes in the US were rebuilt with over 550 million pounds of drywall imported from China. It is estimated that over 50,000 US homes had drywall installed that emitted noxious levels of hydrogen sulphide. The emissions from the imported drywall have made many home owners ill from the smell and causes corrosion in their home’s wiring and appliances. Many American families have had to vacate their homes due to the effects of hydrogen sulphide on their homes and their family’s health, mostly at their own cost.
While the Chinese drywall saga has been ongoing for quite some time now, it is sadly still an issue without resolution. Years of struggle on the part of homeowners has resulted in few solutions offered by the home builders, suppliers, or manufacturers of the tainted drywall. Many home owners have had their homes foreclosed on because they couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage on a house that they couldn’t live in while renting other accommodations.
While some home owners have found satisfaction from Knauf Plasterboard’s cooperation in a pilot program to replace the drywall and wiring in 300 homes that had toxic drywall installed in them, most of the remaining home owners are still struggling for restitution. Many of the construction companies who installed the toxic drywall have since gone out of business and many companies deny that they used or sold Chinese drywall at all. Home building supplier Lowe’s has gone so far as to offer customers damages up to $100,000 for damages caused by contaminated drywall, all the while stating that none of the drywall sold at their stores was in anyway defective.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently working hard to get justice for the thousands of home owners who’re affected by this scandal, however. The CPSC is in charge of making sure that products from other countries are safe for American consumers, but they seem to have their job cut out for them when it comes to Chinese products. While there are still many Chinese products that don’t meet US standards and are eventually recalled by the CPSC, these numbers are down to about 2/3 of the recalls of those in 2008. Unfortunately, while the tainted drywall only represents one recall, it is a recall that affects thousands of home owners.
While the CPSC would like to be able to push Chinese companies harder to pay out restitution for the affected homeowners, there are many serious concerns about pushing China too hard because the country is the biggest holder of US Treasuries in the world, making possible retaliation worrisome. One point that could work in favor of the CPSC is that Chinese leaders are concerned about their reputation in the international sphere of trade. Hopefully this will make some impact on whether or not these manufacturers can be held financially accountable for claims in US courts.
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