Hoping a public outing will force Chinese drywall manufacturers to take responsibility for their products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday published a list of brands that emit the most sulfuric gas compounds.
For more than a year, the consumer protection agency has been investigating problems with drywall imported from China. Hydrogen sulfide being released from some brands of Chinese-made wallboard is the cause of corrosion in appliances, air condition coils and other metals, triggering about 3,300 complaints to the federal government. Some estimates suggest that thousands more homeowners are affected.
“It is our hope that the release of the names of the companies of the manufacturers today serves as motivation for these companies to agree to come to the table for direct discussions with CPSC,” agency spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
Thousands of homes across the country, including many in South Florida, were built with imported drywall. Insurers have denied homeowners’ claims. Some builders aren’t responding to the problem.
Many homeowners have turned to the courts for help, but only one of the many Chinese drywall companies has acknowledged U.S. court proceedings so far.
Some of the companies did allow American inspectors to visit their factories and mines in the past, but they have not made any conciliatory gestures since then, Wolfson said.
“These manufacturers should do what is just and fair,” CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum has said.
This week, U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were in China for the second U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The CPSC said the Chinese government was asked again to facilitate a meeting between the American consumer agency and Chinese drywall companies.
Testing by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that some types of Chinese drywall emitted more than 100 times the hydrogen sulfide of American-made brands. The greatest amount of emissions came from wallboard made by Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin in 2005, with Taian Taishan Plasterboard product from 2006 coming in second.
While some homeowners have complained that their American-made drywall appears to be causing the same problems as Chinese product, boards tested by the lab found very little or no hydrogen sulfide emissions from domestic products. The American boards tested were made last year, however. Many of the most offensive Chinese-made wallboard was produced four or five years ago.
So far, only Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin has responded to lawsuits and probes of the problem. The company also has settled with at least one builder, offering money to cover some of the cost of repairs to homes.