Have you uncovered an unfortunate surprise?  Is the house you recently purchased covered in Chinese drywall.  Is the cost to correct this issue is astronomical?  More importantly, is your health at risk?  “Chinese drywall” is a term used to describe a health problem involving drywall manufactured in China and imported to the United States starting in 2001. Importation of foreign drywall was further spurred by a shortage of American-made drywall due to the rebuilding demand of nine hurricanes that hit Florida from 2004 to 2005.

Laboratory tests for volatile chemicals have identified emissions of  he sulfurous gases carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. The warm and humid climate in Florida seems to promote these  emissions, which have the odor of rotten eggs, and cause copper surfaces to turn black and powdery. Copper pipes, wiring, and air conditioner coils are affected, as well as silver jewelry. You should search for these signs in your home to determine if it is contaminated.

The Center for Disease Control, in collaboration with The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released a guide indicating the residents of affected homes reported irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks. If you and/or your family have been experiencing any of these symptoms after new drywall was installed in your home, or after you moved into a home that was build or remodeled after 2001, you may have a contamination problem.

Much of the contaminated drywall has no markings, making it difficult to identify its origin, but Knauf Group., has been identified as a major producer of imported Chinese drywall, because its name comes up most frequently on these products. Class action lawsuits claiming respiratory problems and headaches have been filed by Florida homeowners against home builders, drywall suppliers, and this Chinese drywall manufacturer. In October 2010, U.S. Federal District Judge in New Orleans approved a settlement in which Knauf Group will pay for the repair of 300 homes of the 3,000 involved in that case, some of which are in Florida.

In 2010 The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, (CPSC), released its “interim remediation standards,” which called for complete removal of the tainted drywall. This may put an end to various quick fixes, such as sprays gases and coatings, which were being peddled by companies in Florida as a way to “neutralize” the drywall in place. Many of these “quick fix” companies were not licensed contractors and The Florida Attorney General‘s office has warned of several deceptive practices targeted at homeowners, so be careful. The CPSC  guidelines also call for replacing all components that the agency believes can pose a safety problem, like electrical wiring, outlets, switches and circuit breakers, along with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire sprinkler systems and gas lines.

On September 30, 2010, the Internal Revenue Service announced it would provide tax relief for homeowners affected by property damage caused by imported Chinese drywall. The IRS has categorized the copper corrosion from the sulfur gasses emitted by the imported drywall as casualty loss”, and is in a similar category to property damage after a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane. However, homeowners can only claim a deduction after repairing the affected area(s), which can be at  great out-of-pocket expense.

Whether the damage will be covered under the insurance policies for home insurance or general liability insurance is at issue. In March 2010, the New Orleans Federal Judge ruled that the damage was covered under a home insurance policy. It is unknown whether the general liability insurance will cover the claims. The standard policy contained an exception to an exclusion for pollution, which allowed coverage if the pollution came from the products of the insured, but insurers had revised the policies to incorporate a “total pollution exclusion” which has no exception. Even without a total pollution exclusion, around 2005 insurers began inserting another provision to deny construction defect claims. Whether or not insurance coverage will be granted generally depends on state law and a state court’s interpretation, but it may be determined for multiple states under the Louisiana multiple district litigation (MDL) overseen by the New Orleans Federal District Court.

If you feel your home is contaminated with Chinese drywall, it is time to consult with a qualified attorney, who can order a proper home inspection on your behalf, review the language of your insurance policy, assist you with applying for IRS tax relief, and/or engage in litigation to rectify the situation. The Horton Law Group can provide you with the help you may need. This Article was written by Attorney, Sommer C. Horton.  If you have questions about the content of this Article, please contact her at 561-299-0018 or email her at [email protected]