A new bill passed by Congress hopes to prevent future mass imports of tainted building materials, after thousands of property owners had to gut their homes and almost rebuild them due to problems caused by Chinese drywall.
The new legislation, which essentially bans Chinese drywall, seeks to outlaw the import of high-sulfur building materials into the United States. It has been approved by both chambers of Congress and is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.
The bill also includes measures to put diplomatic pressure on the foreign businesses that were involved in the import of the tainted Chinese drywall to properly compensate victims. Many say those businesses have refused to participate in judicial proceedings in the United States, which has limited homeowners ability collect judgments from the foreign companies.
In late 2008 or early 2009, media reports began to focus on the growing number of homeowners throughout the United States who were experiencing foul smells and corrosion of appliance after having drywall installed in their home since about 2003.
Subsequent investigations by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) linked the problems to the release of high levels of sulfur compounds used to manufacturer certain drywall products made in China, which were imported during a shortage of U.S.-made drywall because of a housing boom and series of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States. Many of the problems with the Chinese drywall have been confirmed by laboratory testing.
“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 Senator David Vitter, of Louisiana, in a press release on January 2. “This legislation will make sure unsafe drywall won’t be sold in the future and that drywall manufacturers are held accountable.”
Vitter pushed through the legislation in the Senate with bipartisan support. Louisiana and Florida were hardest hit by the drywall problems, although the CPSC received complaints from 42 states in all.
While one German company, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT) has reached a class action Chinese drywall settlement to help oay for repairs to homeowners homes, it only applies to those who can prove KPT drywall was used. Another company, Taishan Gypsum, has reportedly been less cooperative.
Lawsuits have been pursued against Taishan, as well as U.S. subsidiaries, importers and distributors. However, most of the companies subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Courts have proven to have insufficient assets to cover the damages caused.