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Chinese drywall experts discuss dangers, solutions

By Staff | Sep 14, 2009

In response to the growing Chinese drywall problem in Florida and other states, several experts addressed the concerns of Lee County residents during a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon.
The meeting, held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Fort Myers, featured speakers Jason Robertson of Urban Habitats, U.S. Building Consultants Inc., Forensic Investigator and Consultant Spiderman Mulholland and Jonathan Gdanski of Schlesinger Law Offices.
The speakers discussed health, legal and tax issues associated with homes containing Chinese drywall.
“It’s essential that we stay as informed as we can,” Robertson told residents Sunday. “Some of you have been living with this for months, some of you have just discovered it in your homes. Almost every homeowner I have talked to is outraged.”
So far nearly 36,000 Florida homes, some built as early as 2000 or 2001, have been effected by Chinese drywall.
Mulholland, also a chairman of Defective Drywall in America, called the Chinese drywall dilemma the “biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”
Mulholland said a U.S. plant apparently recycled some of the Chinese drywall, and that figuring out how large the problem really is could take time.
“I believe we won’t fully know what we’re dealing with for at least another year or two,” he said, adding that medical experts predict it will take about 3 and a half years before the adverse health effects caused by hydrogen sulfide and other chemicals in the drywall will be thoroughly understood.
Physical evidence suggests Chinese drywall causes health problems and could even threaten lives, and chemical treatments are ineffective, Mulholland said.
“If you have Chinese drywall in your home, you need to get it out,” he said. “It would be nice to leave the drywall in and just fix the problem, but that’s not going to happen, not if you want to get back the value of your home.”
Mulholland said a collection of toxicologists and other specialists has been working on addressing the problem, though he suggests residents with Chinese drywall in their homes seek legal representation.
The Florida Department of Health has seen an estimated 549 health-related complaints, Gdanski said.
“It is not hard to believe that estimate will continue to grow,” he said.
Residents with drywall problems have reported symptoms such as respiratory problems, skin irritation, lethargy and in some cases coughing up blood.
While federal courts have consolidated many Chinese drywall claims into about 50 cases, there are over 1,500 related lawsuits in Florida state courts, many of which remain individual suits, Gdanski said.
Residents can file a timely petition to contest the values of their homes with the Value Adjustment Board through Sept. 18, and the Internal Revenue Service will offer residents the opportunity to receive money back on their 2010 tax returns as a “reprieve of loss” if the value of their home has decreased due to the defective drywall.
Gdanski suggests residents who believe they have a Chinese drywall problem confirm the defective product is in their home, contact associated builders, contractors and their bank and be cautious of any documents they sign.