Does Toxic Chinese Drywall Signal the Need for U.S. Trade Law Changes?
Posted by admin on 06/26/2009
As regular readers of ManufactureThis know, toxic drywall imported from China and into homes primarily in coastal areas has been causing rancid odors, rotting wood and wiring, and serious health problems for homeowners. The multiple class action lawsuits initiated by homeowners and contactors against the importers of the defective drywall as well as its Chinese manufacturers lead to a large drywall litigation conference held in Orlando in early June. Additionally, the federal judicial panel that assigns multi-district lawsuits to specific courts has aggregated the lawsuits and assigned them to be tried in New Orleans, a city that has had significant problems with the deadly drywall after shortages due in part to repairs made necessary by Hurricane Katrina decreased the availability of safe U.S.-made product. Observers expect these proceedings to be long and complex, as hundreds of suits have already been filed. However, that figure is nowhere near the number of homeowner complaints as Florida alone is investigating nearly 500 claims, and a dozen other states are dealing with reports of problems. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently launched a Drywall Information Center web site to assist homeowners and track data. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control are also actively addressing the toxic drywall crisis. State agencies and legislators in affected states are investigating the problem, and the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are aggressively pursuing answers and remedies for affected homeowners. Florida Congressman Robert Wexler calls the toxic drywall problem “an acute and growing crisis” and along with other Congressmen and Senators, he is calling for an immediate ban of Chinese drywall and stricter safety regulations for future imports of building materials. Federal legislators are also calling on the IRS to allow homeowners to take a full tax credit under casualty loss provisions in the tax code to help them afford toxic drywall repairs. All levels of government are clearly taking his problem very seriously and looking for swift and innovative ways to provide relief. However, the extent to which homeowners must go – stripping walls down to studs in most cases – promises a long and expensive process, and the long term prognosis for people who have become ill from the drywall is yet unknown. Poisoned dog food, tainted toothpaste, contaminated toys, exploding tires and toxic drywall – what will it take for U.S. trade and commerce agencies to enact policies that put a burden on China’s manufacturers to prove that their products are safe before their widgets even step foot on our shores?
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