Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Chinese Drywall
As if Florida's housing industry isn't already in enough trouble, there are now problems with drywall imported from China. A Miami-Dade lawsuit claims houses with the product have made their owners sick. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- This house in South Miami-Dade stinks. It smells like rotten eggs.
Jorge: "My wife, probably her biggest investment in this house is candles. She's always getting candles to try to camouflage the smell."
On Florida's west coast, another house has the same kind of smell.
Mike Foreman: "Take a deep breath, it's your last fresh air."
Carmel Cafiero: "I can smell it."
In fact, the odor here is so bad, the owners have moved out.
These homes may be among thousands that were made with drywall imported from China.
Mike Foreman: "We will only be here a few minutes."
Mike Foreman is a construction consultant. He has been investigating Chinese drywall for months.
Foreman says he examined eight houses in this Bradenton development, and all have the same odor problems. He believes all have drywall made in China.
But there's more than a bad smell. Whatever is in the air is causing metal to corrode, from copper coils in air conditioning units, to copper pipes connected to toilets, even copper ground wires on electrical outlets are turning black.
Mike Foreman: "This is a sign that there is corrosion, that there's something in the air that's accelerating a process here that is unknown at this juncture."
This is the drywall that's causing such concern. It shows when it was manufactured and the standard it met. Foreman says that standard was out of date.
Carmel Cafiero: "But it was not valid when it was imported?"
Mike Foreman: "It was not valid when it was made."
This is developing into a huge problem for everyone involved. The only way to be certain Chinese drywall has been used is to tear out walls to see the identification on the back of the material. The only way to fix it may be to tear down every wall in a home.
Joseph Givner: "You're not supposed to be selling items that cause damage and injury."
Attorney Joseph Givner filed the first class action lawsuit over the drywall on behalf of Melissa Harrell and her family. She says her house made the family sick.
Melissa Harrell: "Coughing, sinus issues, drainage, waking up with sore throats. My husband, he's gotten headaches and both of my kids seem to be sick all the time with either sinus infections or breathing issues, things like that."
The lawsuit claims the walls emit several different toxins. The state is looking into the possible health impact but so far has not issued a report. Some builders have told homeowners there's no cause for concern.
Mike Foreman: "They're just simply saying that they've determined, by their experts, that it doesn't pose a health hazard."
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you believe that? Are you ready to buy that? Would you move into one of these houses?"
Mike Foreman: "Not me."
Carmel Cafiero: "The blame game has begun. Builders are blaming the manufacturer and the contractors who installed it. Personal injury attorneys are blaming the builders. One thing is clear, this is going to cost a lot of money to fix.
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