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New Law Targets Chinese Drywall

Friday, January 11, 2013

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Federal lawmakers say a new bill will help relieve some of the nightmares associated with tainted drywall and keep the product from reentering the U.S. market.

Toxic drywall imported into the U.S. from China between 2004 and 2008 has caused damage and health problems for thousands of homeowners. Numerous lawsuits have been brought by those affected, including a global class action that settled with distributors and producers for $80 million.

toxic drywall
Swartz & Swartz

The new law will make sure unsafe drywall won’t be sold in the U.S. and that drywall manufacturers are held accountable, backers say.

The Drywall Safety Act of 2012 passed the U.S. Senate on Jan. 1 and the House of Representatives on Sept. 19 and was awaiting President Obama’s signature Thursday (Jan. 10) morning before going into effect.

Seeking Compliance from Chinese

The legislation urges the Secretary of Commerce to "insist" that the Chinese government make that country's manufacturers of "problematic drywall" pay for harm caused by the defective products.

The bill also urges that Chinese companies "submit to jurisdiction" of the U.S. federal courts in cases involving problem drywall.

The law also requires that drywall sheets be labeled with a date and name of manufacturer, in accordance with ASTM C1264-11.

In addition, the law requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop a limit on the sulfur content in drywall—the cause of the problem in "toxic" drywall, according to experts—or adopt a "voluntary standard" set by the industry. The law requires this standard to be promulgated within two years.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and other supporters say the legislation will “make sure unsafe drywall won’t be sold in the future and that drywall manufacturers are held accountable.”

“Many Louisiana families were faced with the nightmare of building or repairing their homes with toxic drywall after Hurricane Katrina, and I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Vitter.

Taking Issue

However, reports like this one on Propublica.org say the act was "watered down" under pressure from homebuilding industry groups.

The first version of the bill (the Contaminated Drywall Safety Act of 2012), proposed in March 2012, would have designated Chinese-made drywall as a banned hazardous product in the United States and imposed civil or criminal penalties on sellers and users.

However, the current act simply asks an industry association committee made up of mostly drywall manufacturers and builders to develop voluntary limits on sulfur content in drywall for the government to enforce, reports ProPublica. Further, the measure does not include any "preventative standards," the report argues.

The act has also been criticized for lacking "teeth to hold accountable the Chinese companies implicated in much of the faulty drywall," according to an op-editorial in Southwest Florida's Herald-Tribune.

Wikimedia Commons

Drywall is used to make interior walls and ceilings.

Still, many of those homeowners affected by the toxic products have welcomed the recent political action on the issue, according to various news outlets.


Tagged categories: Building materials; Chinese drywall; Drywall; Government; Laws and litigation; President Obama; Residential Construction

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