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Richmond, Virginia

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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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Does Your Home Contain Foul Smelling Chinese-Made Drywall?

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This issue was first brought to my attention by fellow blogger, Wayne Parsons, in a January 2, 2009 blog, "Drywall From China Causes Concern Over Sulfur Odor in Homes." Apparently, health department and building officials across the Southeast have been getting a lot of reports about Chinese drywall which, according to the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors, emits much higher levels of sulfur, methane, and other volatile organic compounds than is considered safe for humans.

The Engineering News-Record reported this week that the foul-smelling Chinese drywall has been linked to corrosion of mecanical and electrical systems and has raised health concerns. Robert Kraus, president of the southwest chapter of the American Society of Homebuilders, stated that moisture triggers the Chinese-made drywall to emit an odor that smells like firecrackers. He also stated that replacing the drywall alone may not correct the problem because the drywall may have caused corrosive damage to electrical and/or mechanical systems in the home. Florida officials have received reports of problems with air conditioning systems, plumbing, electrical outlets, and tarnished jewelry and other metal items caused by corrosion from the chemicals in the drywall.

Under Virginia law, the parties who may be liable for damages to home and health caused by this drywall include the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer of the product. Manufacturers may be liable under theories sounding in negligence and/or breach of warranty, while merchants (the distributors and/or sellers of the product) may be liable for breaches of either warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, express warranties, or other applicable warranties.

If your home has a noxious sulfur smell, call your builder or home renovator and determine if your drywall was made in China. If so, your builder/contractor should remove the drywall, check your wiring, plumbing, and mechanical systems for corrosion, and replace the drywall with non-Chinese-made drywall, preferably drywall made in the USA. You made need to call your local building official and ask him or her to encourage your builder to take responsibility for the problem.