In late 2008 and 2009, Florida homeowners began to notice foul sulfur odors in their homes. Upon further inspection, they discovered the odors were emanating from their drywall, a material used to construct interior walls. Soon, homeowners in other states noticed the odors as well as reports of problems with their air conditioners, corroded electrical wiring, and browning of their silverware. Many complained of sinus problems, headaches and bloody noses.
Inspectors and researchers traced the drywall to Chinese imports and to gypsum mines in China. Since many of the complaints began to surface when the U.S. housing market began to collapse, Chinese officials suggested that domestic drywall manufacturers were seizing upon the reports to denigrate their product and to lay blame for suffering domestic sales on the imported products.
Unfortunately, the problems associated with Chinese drywall have not dissipated and unlivable homes as well as severe health problems have been reported and allegedly linked to the product leading to numerous lawsuits and eventual class action suits.
From 2004 to 2008, millions of square feet of drywall from China was imported to fuel the housing boom. Although this was only a fraction of the drywall used in the U.S., it was used to build about 65,000 homes, many in the Southeastern states like Florida, Louisiana, Virginia and Alabama, although homes in California and New York have also been affected.
Some American manufacturers, though, have been found to mix their drywall with the Chinese brand so that the number of households affected may be over 100,000.
Drywall is also known as plaster board or gypsum board. There are only so many ingredients that comprise drywall, though gypsum is the main product.
Once the gypsum has been mined, it mixed with a number of additives including paper pulp, starch, an emulsifier and water to form a paste. The paste is spread onto manila paper where another sheet is placed over it before being heated up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Whether manufactured drywall or raw mined gypsum, it should not have any carcinogens or any other elements or compounds in it that can cause health issues.
Determining whether your drywall was made in China can be difficult. Not all sheets have “Made in China” labels on the back and it has been learned that American manufacturers simply mixed Chinese drywall in their products and labelled it as American made.
One possible cause of these problems is the presence of phosphogypsum, a radioactive substance that contains radium, a cancer causing substance that is also corrosive. Though banned in the US in 1989, there is no similar ban in China. Some Florida legal practitioners have suspected that the substance was mined from areas in Tampa and used in some domestic drywall.
Effects of Chinese Drywall
Homeowners who had Chinese drywall installed in their houses have noticed problems with their air conditioning units. Silverware has turned brown or black. Smoke detectors have gone off for no reason. Other effects are charred electrical wires and rusted-out door hinges. The worst offense, however, has been the rotten egg odor most people associate with sulfur odors.
Persons living in homes constructed with Chinese drywall or a mixture with domestic drywall have reported a number of physical symptoms including the following:
- Nose bleeds
- Respiratory problems
- Kidney and liver problems
- Eye irritations
The only solution for homeowners is to remove the offensive substance. You cannot coat phosphogypsum-based drywall like lead-based paint or asbestos.
Another is to file a lawsuit or become part of a class action suit.
Hire an Attorney
Any lawsuit is subject to a statute of limitations for when it must be filed, or the victim can lose his or her right to recover anything. In Florida, the time limit for filing a lawsuit for a drywall case is four years.
If you noticed that your home and products within it were corroding, that you noted sulfur smells, and that you or any member of your family experienced any of the above symptoms or worse, you should immediately contact an attorney experienced in drywall claims and litigation.
Not all attorneys who claim to be product defect specialists of drywall attorneys have the necessary experience or the resources to prosecute these types of cases. You have to do your due diligence and find out if a particular lawyer has successfully handled mass tort litigation in the past.
You could hire someone to come into your home and assess whether Chinese drywall or a mixture exists, but you can be sure that a credible expert does the work only if you retain an attorney who has used these experts in other cases. Drywall litigation suits are taken on a contingency basis, so your attorney will not be paid any legal fees until you receive compensation.
The expert will take samples of your drywall and have it tested along with the air conditioning coils, affected silverware, or other household items.
Although there have been some successful class action settlements against manufacturers or marketers of drywall in these cases, many other lawsuits have been thrown out of court for failure to prove that homes were affected by drywall or that alleged health problems were caused by the substances found within it. A number of courts have not been convinced by credible and reliable scientific and medical evidence that drywall is responsible for anyone’s cancer or other serious health condition.
Still, plaintiff attorneys have been encouraged by recent settlements whereby a number of companies will have to engage in remediation or the removal and repair of thousands of homes that used defective Chinese drywall. With a focused effort by plaintiff attorneys, many hope that compensation will be forthcoming for health victims.