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Apr 2, 2010 4:57 PM by Melissa Canone

New Guidelines: Chinese Drywall Should Be Completely Gutted

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Thousands of U.S. homes tainted by Chinese
drywall should be completely gutted, according to new guidelines
released Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The guidelines say electrical wiring, outlets, circuit breakers,
fire alarm systems, carbon monoxide alarms, fire sprinklers, gas
pipes and drywall need to be removed.
"We want families to tear it all out and rebuild the interior
of their homes, and they need to start this to get their lives
started all over again," said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the
commission, the federal agency charged with making sure consumer
products are safe.
About 3,000 homeowners, mostly in Florida, Virginia,
Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, have reported problems with the
Chinese-made drywall, which was imported in large quantities during
the housing boom and after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The drywall has been linked to corrosion of wiring, air
conditioning units, computers, doorknobs and jewelry, along with
possible health effects. Tenenbaum said some samples of the
Chinese-made product emit 100 times as much hydrogen sulfide as
drywall made elsewhere.
The agency continues to investigate possible health effects, but
preliminary studies have found a possible link between throat, nose
and lung irritation and high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted
from the wallboard, coupled with formaldehyde, which is commonly
found in new houses.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said now the question is who pays
to gut the homes.
"The way I see it, homeowners didn't cause this. The
manufacturers in China did," Nelson said. "That's why we've got
to go after the Chinese government now."
Southern members of Congress have sought to make it easier to
sue Chinese manufacturers and to get the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to help homeowners pay for costs not covered by
insurance. They also say the U.S. needs to pressure the Chinese
government, which allegedly ran some of the companies that made
defective drywall.
About 2,100 homeowners have filed suit in federal court in New
Orleans against Chinese manufacturers and U.S. companies that sold
the drywall. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is expected to rule
soon in a pivotal case against the Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co.,
the only Chinese company that has responded to U.S. suits.
Separate claims by thousands more homeowners against Chinese
manufacturers are pending, said Jordan Chaikin, a Florida lawyer
whose firm represents about 1,000 homeowners.
They are "continuing to live in their homes with Chinese
drywall, patiently waiting for this thing to be resolved so they
can move on with their lives," Chaikin said. "We're not waiting
for the government to move quicker than we are in the courts."
In some cases, homebuilders have paid to gut and rewire homes.
In others, homeowners who can afford it have paid for the work
themselves. Knauf Plasterboard has offered to pay for remediation
in homes where its defective drywall was installed.
Daniel Becnel, a New Orleans lawyer representing Chinese drywall
plaintiffs, including Sean Payton, the head coach of the Super Bowl
champion New Orleans Saints, said the government guidelines issued
Friday were "word for word what our experts said."
He also said Congress should give homeowners grants to cover the
cost of home gutting.
"Get these people out of this environment," he said. "You're
making these people sicker and sicker and sicker. You will have
long-term effects."
In Cape Coral, Fla., Joyce Dowdy, 71, and her husband Sonny, 63,
plan to move out of their $150,000, 1,600-square-foot home while it
is gutted to get rid of tainted Chinese drywall.
Joyce Dowdy said she suffers from nose bleeds and her husband
has a persistent cough. They blame the drywall.
"We can't live like this anymore," Joyce Dowdy.
They're borrowing money to do the gutting, which means that
instead of a mortgage-free retirement they will be paying monthly
bills cover the costs of repair.
"It's costing us as much as we paid for the house," Joyce
Dowdy said. "But we can't just walk away ... Our house is worth
nothing at the moment."
But Randy Noel, past president of the Louisiana Home Builders
Association, said the Chinese drywall problem has been exaggerated.
He called the new guidelines "overkill."
"Nobody has come up with a house yet that has caught on fire
from the Chinese drywall, no one has come up yet with a house that
leaks water or gas because of Chinese drywall," he said.
He has examined numerous homes containing Chinese drywall and
found minor problems, he said.
"It's a black soot on top of the copper, brass and silver," he
said. "You wipe the stuff off and it looks as good as new."

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