Did Poisonous Chinese Drywall Cause Florida House Fires?

As if it weren’t bad enough that poisonous Chinese drywall is blame for health problems, corroded electrical work, and general stench. Now the drywall may be to blame for two house fires in Florida. Who knew that Chinese industrial waste is a problematic ingredient for building materials?

Homeowners seek remedy as probe of Chinese drywall continues [Consumer Reports Safety]
Consumer agency lists fire hazards among Chinese drywall inquiries [Palm Beach Post]

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  1. MissPiss says:

    Yeah…who knew?

  2. ringrose says:

    Corroded electrical work -> spark -> fire. Sure.

  3. Chumas says:

    Being int he FL HVAC trade I’ve come across a lot of houses where good systems mysteriously corroded, the air in the attics was toxic to breathe, and the house always made my skin itch more than fiberglass.

    Copper coils, even coated, are supposed to last at minimum 10-15 years with good maintenance and an acid cleaning every 4-5 years. These coils were failing once a year, prompting Rheem and American Standard to do a recall in order to find out exactly what the problem was.

    Didn’t matter if the system was a household unit or a commercial sized package unit, the coils and electrical parts corroded with such rapidity that noone knew what was happening.

    Now we know.

  4. Shoelace says:

    Was a standard violated? Can a Chinese manufacturer be sued for this?

    • Saisu Mimen says:

      @Shoelace:

      The Chinese have been violating standards left and right for decades now. Will they ever be sued? No. What kind of jurisdiction does our consumer products and/or justice dept. have over there? None.

      And forget about voting with your wallet; there are pretty much no alternatives to Chinese manufacturers. Americans wanted the absolute cheapest products possible, Americans were warned about doing too much shopping at Walmart… this is what happens.

      • Megalomania says:

        @Saisu Mimen: The Chinese depend on us buying their wares just as much as we depend on them selling to us. Also, perhaps you haven’t noticed, but this is the sort of thing that the PRC’s government will flat out execute people for.

        • Kogenta says:

          @Megalomania: While I’m sure you’d be right about them executing the equivelent of the company’s CEO, or else the government’s department head of whatever safety division that company happenned to be in, it changes nothing at all. Next week, they’ll have new people installed and will continue on there way as if nothing happenned.

      • shepd says:

        @Saisu Mimen:

        Not only did North America import plenty of Chinese products before WalMart was a serious influence (in fact, the didn’t exist in Canada until after Chinese products were EXTREMELY popular) but, at least in the WalMart near me, they carry about the same amount of non-Chinese goods as anywhere else.

        Or, that’s what I find. Don’t know why people in the US hate on WalMart so much. Drives me insane.

    • Sudonum says:

      @Shoelace:
      The problem is finding the manufacturer. There aren’t too many identifying marks on drywall. There is one German manufacturer who has a plant in China and they’ve been able to track their products. But that’s just one of many.
      @Saisu Mimen:
      Chinese drywall isn’t any cheaper than US made drywall. There was just such demand after hurricane season in 2004 (Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne) and 2005 (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma) that US manufacturers couldn’t keep up. Some (mostly independent) building suppliers bought material made in China to supply their customers.

  5. supergaijin says:

    Haha. Yah, sue them. They’ll pay off in US debt they’ve bought.

  6. evilmage says:

    Chinese … nonexistant standards … pay us …

    The logistics are mindboggling.

  7. sir_eccles says:

    In a stunning coincidence both homeowners in Florida were behind on their mortgages, luckily they had just renewed their insurance and paid a supplement for accidental fire damage.

  8. joshua70448 says:

    The second link (to Palm Beach Post) appears to be incorrect, it’s referencing this page.

  9. xkevin108x says:

    This stuff is a real debacle. A local materials outfit called Venture Supply has been sued by multiple people and foreclosed on over it. Of course, when they were buying it, nobody knew this stuff was dangerous or any different from traditional drywall. It sucks to see a local business that did around $35 million a year ruined because they happened to buy some poison drywall and resold it. And the Chinese manufacturer is getting off scott free?

  10. ageshin says:

    Leave it to the last major communist country, China, to practice true unregulated capitalism. No regulation equals profit. Gooo China!

  11. SgtMajorFragg says:

    My fiancée and I are busy tearing out the drywall in her mother’s pied-à-terre in the Southwest Florida area. Only two years since it was built, we’re starting over. From calls to the Consumer Protection Agency and various other government TLAs we were basically told that the powers that be are busy compiling information, but not to expect remedy anytime soon.

    Now we’re also worried about a spec house we had built two years ago … soaring, vaulted ceilings in a two-story McMansion. We may have to consider it a total loss if the drywall shows up there as well.

  12. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Wow … light switches, smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, circuit breakers, gas connectors and other components … I knew about the A/C coils and such, but I never thought about all these elements. This is going to get REAL serious.

    • usa_gatekeeper says:

      @usa_gatekeeper: UPDATE: I see where home builder Lennar has acknowledged installing defective Chinese-made drywall in about 400 Florida homes.

      They said in a recent SEC filing that the figure represented around 2 percent of homes they delivered in Florida during FY06-07.

      Lenmar has already set aside almost $40 million in warranty reserves for homes with the bad drywall.

      This is only the beginning.

  13. pot_roast says:

    Isn’t it great that we’ve eliminated so many manufacturing jobs here and handed them over to China? Isn’t it great that so many CEOs are just itching to open up offices in China so they can say they’re part of the “global economy?”

    Now the backlash is beginning, just like the anti-outsourcing to India one has.

    If we didn’t have cash grubbing corporate droids sending everything to China & India, we might not need a $800 billion ‘stimulus’ package.