Congress has taken action to stop the spread of tainted drywall blamed for corroding pipes and causing breathing problems in thousands of homes in Florida and 38 other states.
The bill essentially bans high-sulfur building products and also raised hopes that homeowners will be able to bring Chinese manufacturers to court to recover the cost of replacing dangerous drywall.
"Most of the homes in Williamsburg or Hampton Roads have been repaired, and people are moving forward, But any level of relief for those homeowners will be welcomed, because many were devastated.
The bill that Congress sent to President Barack Obama Tuesday evening relies on diplomatic pressure to help alleged victims gain compensation.
It directs the U.S. secretary of commerce to arrange a meeting between Chinese drywall makers and U.S. officials on how to remedy homeowners. And it instructs the Commerce Department to insist that the Chinese government direct those companies to submit to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and their judgments.
Though consumer advocates were encouraged, some remain doubtful about the Obama’s administration’s determination to demand a response from the Chinese.
The original legislation, H.R. 4212, was introduced by Representative Scott Rigell and passed the House of Representatives unanimously this summer. In December, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a longtime advocate for Chinese drywall victims, was instrumental in moving the legislation unanimously through the Senate with an amendment. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the measure on a strong bipartisan vote of 378-37 and sent the final bill to the President’s desk.
“This is a bill about protecting American families – their health and financial well-being. Too many of our friends and neighbors have suffered because of the effects of Chinese drywall in their homes, and this bill ensures that preventative standards are in place so no American family is faced with the hardship and heartache from contaminated drywall ever again,” said Rigell, co-chair of the bipartisan Contaminated Drywall Caucus which has worked on legislation to address this issue since the beginning of the 112th Congress.
“Having worked on this issue since the day I took office, I am pleased that this legislation is headed to the President’s desk. But China must also be held accountable for the devastation this product has already caused, and we will continue to fight for these victims as well.”
“Hundreds of Virginia homeowners have been put through hell after building or repairing their homes with toxic drywall. Our bipartisan legislation should ensure that, in the future, more Virginians will not have to go through similar nightmares,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation helps make sure that unsafe drywall won’t be sold in the future, and that the manufacturers of tainted drywall will be held accountable.”
Senator Warner and staff have worked closely for nearly three years with about 100 affected Virginia families. The Senator has worked with mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and the IRS to provide some short-term financial relief for affected families. In October 2009, Senator Warner accompanied Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Tenenbaum to Hampton Roads to speak with families and tour several homes affected by drywall issues.
Once signed into law, the bill will:
• Express a Sense of Congress that the Chinese manufacturers need to make restitution to the victims.
• Institute a labeling requirement so that defective drywall can be traced to the manufacturer.
• Set chemical standards to limit the amount of sulfur that can be present in domestic and imported drywall, allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission two years to promulgate a rule pertaining to sulfur content.
• Require Consumer Product Safety Commission to update their remediation guidelines to prevent contaminated drywall from being reused or recycled.
Background on contaminated drywall:
Background on contaminated drywall:
- Contaminated Chinese-manufactured drywall was imported and used in home construction from approximately 2001-2009. Some of that material was used in Hampton Roads construction.
- Scientific studies have shown this drywall to cause a corrosive environment for fire alarm systems, electrical distribution systems, gas piping, and refrigeration coils.
- The CPSC has received reports of contaminated Chinese drywall in more than 3,991 homes in 43 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.
- The Chinese manufacturers, some of which are state owned, have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
- Reports from homeowners indicate that some contaminated drywall may be entering the recycling stream for use in new home construction or renovation.