Stinky Drywall Legislation Passes Congress––After Construction Industry Watered It Down

Image courtesy of (Qole Pejorian)

The Drywall Safety Act of 2012 passed Congress on New Year’s Day 2013 and is currently waiting for President Obama’s signature. The purpose of the bill is to keep stinky and hazardous drywall out of American homes. Simple enough. Thanks to the miracle of democracy, the bill has been watered down and gives less power to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and more to the building industry to draw up its own voluntary standards. 

“I’m not thrilled with [the bill], but it’s better than absolutely nothing,” one Virginia homeowner forced out of her home told a reporter. That’s not much of an endorsement.

You remember stinky Chinese drywall, right? As Americans rebuilt their homes after Hurricane Katrina and a housing bubble swept the nation, there was a lot of new construction. Builders imported drywall from China to meet demand, which later released a rotten-egg stench that damaged home electronics, wiring, and the health of people living in the houses.

What the watered-down bill actually does is have an industry group, the American Society for Testing and Materials, set a standard for the maximum amount of sulphur permitted in drywall, and then the CPSC will adopt that standard. Fair enough: they’re the experts. The problem is that the CPSC never determined what made the contaminated drywall release its unholy stench, so setting sulfur-content guidelines may not necessarily help prevent similar problems in the future.

The original bill designated contaminated Chinese drywall as a hazardous substance, and imposed civil and criminal penalties on companies that sold or built with it. The construction industry found this to be a little harsh, and that’s no longer part of the bill. It does, however, include a tracking system, to be designed and implemented by construction industry groups, that will make it easier to find the original source of any problem drywall.

Home Builders Lobby Weakens Drywall Legislation [ProPublica]
H.R. 4212 (112th): Drywall Safety Act of 2012 [Bill]

EPA Releases Report On Stinky Chinese Drywall
Insurers Drop Homeowners With Stinky Chinese Drywall
I Like Smelling Farts, Chinese Drywall Distributor Tells Court
Half-A-Dozen Companies Knew About Tainted Drywall, But Stayed Mum And Kept Selling It

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