News Columns & Blogs

Drywall and toys: the latest consumer woes

When the insanely over-heated housing bubble burst a few years ago, it helped bring on an economic meltdown, the likes of which few living Americans can recall.

In talking recently to several astute college professors for a story timed to publish on the inauguration of Barack Obama, I got the sense that nobody is looking for any improvements anytime soon.

That’s discouraging news for you and me, and for Obama, too. The world’s toughest job just keeps getting tougher.

But the man does have smarts, charisma, and the ability to inspire. We wish him well, for all our sakes.

Getting back to that housing bubble, we now know that something akin to a giant Ponzi scheme helped bring it about. Who knows how many folks quit their regular jobs and started flipping houses in a let’s-get-rich-quick fervor?

Eventually, much of the banking world imploded. Not so long ago, most of us didn’t know the difference between subprime and prime rib. Now, we know that subprime is the one that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

It seems like there’s no end to the shoes dropping. This bank, that bank, and so on.

And then to add insult to injury, we now know about Chinese drywall. It seems that the housing market was so hot that building materials had to be imported to keep up with the demand.

Chinese drywall is the latest shoe to drop.

At least six houses in Heritage Harbour and one in Lakewood Ranch are suspected of having it. In all, about 30 complaints from several counties about Chinese drywall have been lodged with the state.

Reporter Jessica Klipa learned that the building material has a corrosive affect on air conditioners, wiring and more. One home that she visited in Heritage Harbour had staining on a metal picture frame that you might normally not see for 30 years.

Maybe more alarming are the health concerns of residents. Jessica reported having a sore throat after visiting one house, which gave off a pungent odor.

She suspects that we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg with this problem, but only time will tell.

The United States imports a huge quantity of everything from other countries. Maybe, we’re fortunate that there haven’t been more problems with food, children’s toys, infant formula, and now building materials.

Also this week, Herald business writer Grace Gagliano reported that local thrift store managers may stop selling toys. Starting Feb. 10, children’s toys can’t be sold if they contain too much lead. The thrift store managers often have no way of knowing what the lead content is on a used toy.

One of our staff members bought a bunch of toys from a thrift store as Christmas gifts for his child. It looked like a smart move at the time. Now, who knows?