This Time It’s the Chinese and DryWall

The past year has not been very good for commercial US-China relations. We’ve witnessed the heparin contamination scandal, the tainted milk debacle, and counterfeit drugs manufactured in China. Now, it’s Chinese drywall. The problem stems from the building boom five years ago. Houses, especially in southwest Florida, were being constructed in record numbers. To cut costs, builders such as Lennar Homes and Aubuchon contracted with Chinese companies to purchase dirt cheap drywall. That’s when the old adage, “you get what you paid for” comes into play. The problem is the drywall was made with waste materials from scrubbers on coal-fired power plants. According to Dan Reid of Intuitive Environmental Solutions in Fort Myers, “Those materials leak into the air as gases and combine with the moisture on an air conditioning coil to create sulfuric acid, which appears to be dissolving solder joints and copper tubing — creating leaks, blackening the coils and even causing the system to fail.”
The problem doesn’t just involve private residences. Three Cape Coral Florida charter schools are being investigated to determine whether Chinese drywall was used in the construction of the schools. According to a News-Press article, “Cape Coral Mayor Jim Burch’s call for an investigation into the construction of all city buildings during years the drywall was imported to the U.S.”
“I have growing concern that the Chinese drywall problem could present serious economic and health challenges to Lee County,” Burch wrote in a Monday memo to City Manager Terry Stewart.
The health effects of exposure to the sulfur compound is unknown at this point.
According to the South Florida Business Journal, at least 80 Lennar Homes have been built with the controversial and potentially dangerous Chinese drywall. A spokesperson for Lennar Homes has said that the homes in question were built during the building boom in southwest Florida during 2005-06.
The drywall causes unpleasant, noxious odors, electrical problems, and potential health problems yet undetermined by health officials tasked with investigating the latest Chinese scandal.