Federal and state regulators have linked it to illnesses and to property damage in 24 states and Washington, D.C.
But by all accounts, Chinese drywall has yet to rear its ugly head in the Mid-South.
Between 2005 and 2007, Hurricane Katrina and a building boom contributed to severe shortages of drywall and sheet rock, primarily along the Gulf Coast. Some homebuilders skimped on raw materials, importing cheap Chinese drywall made partially of hazardous waste.
The result: A federal investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and at least one class action lawsuit. The suit's plaintiffs have alleged Chinese drywall has caused them either significant health problems or damage to their homes' metallic fixtures and electrical appliances.
"We had five computer failures. We're on our fourth hard drive right now," said New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, one of the plaintiffs. His New Orleans home was built with Chinese drywall. "We had 13 air-conditioning service calls. Three different coil failures."
Chinese drywall damage in South Mississippi has also been documented - enough to generate a significant amount of complaints to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
"Our office has received several complaints on Chinese drywall," said Hood. "We are investigating these complaints, and encourage other consumers who may be victims to call us."
Despite Hood's investigation, state regulators have found no evidence of homes with Chinese drywall in North Mississippi, Tennessee or Arkansas -- at least not yet. Homebuilders say that's because there never was a shortage of American-made drywall in the Mid-South.
"We never experienced a shortage, so we didn't have to import sheet rock or drywall from other areas of the world," said Blair Brown of the Memphis Area Homebuilders Association.
Brown said MAHBA offers a limited, one-year warranty to consumers who buy new homes built by the association's members. The warranty covers overall home structure, foundation and cosmetic defects, including damage caused by Chinese drywall.
"If it were to be Chinese drywall, that would be repaired under the warranty," Brown said.
SIGNS OF CHINESE DRYWALL (BEFORE INSTALLATION):
* Chinese lettering or "Made In China" written on drywall
* The word "KNAUF", designating the German brand of drywall made in China
SIGNS OF CHINESE DRYWALL (AFTER INSTALLATION):
* Rotten egg smell
* Blackening of metallic parts/fixtures/copper wiring & tubing
* Failure of electronic systems/appliances
For more information about the federal government's investigation of Chinese drywall, click here:
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