Warning: Chinese drywall could be defective

Posted: Updated:
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX - Monsoon 2009 ends today and although we didn't get a lot of rain this season even the slightest amount of moisture may be key to detecting defective drywall in your home.

Heat and humidity are said to cause sulfur in certain Chinese-made drywall to stink.

Thousands of homeowners have complained the sulfuric acid makes them sick, and is even rotting their houses. Nearly all of those reports have come from the southeast U.S., but now, we've learned some have come from right here in Arizona.

Monsoons typically mean torrential rain and flooding for Arizona, but this year the rainy season has been a bust. In fact, it's the 3rd driest monsoon in Arizona history. But little moisture is all it may take for you to detect Chinese drywall in your home.

“If you're using a humidifier in one of the bedrooms, if you are shampooing your carpets, during monsoon season, any type of moisture, especially when it's hot, is going to be the best trigger,” attorney Jared Scarbrough said.

Attorney Jared Scarbrough is putting the Arizona construction companies he represents on alert, that the product which was once considered safe, is now the reason dozens of homes in Florida are being ripped to shreds.

“Some people have described this as the largest construction defect that America has ever faced,” Scarbrough said.

At the height of the U.S. housing boom, when building materials were in short supply, American construction companies imported millions of pounds of Chinese-made drywall because it was abundant, and cheap.

Now, people living with it claim it's causing health problems - headaches, dizziness, nose bleeds - in addition to emitting a pungent, rotten-egg odor.

Gas leaking from the wallboard may also be corroding copper air-conditioning and electrical wires, even turning jewelry and silverware black.

“Rub your hand over it and you get black comes off of it,” Florida homeowner, Alana Consolo said, “It's a black soot.”

Lennar Homes, a homebuilder which used the alleged defective drywall on hundreds of houses in Florida, is suing the product's manufacturer, Knauf.

“And there's no question that the defective Chinese drywall is absolutely an inferior product,” Lennar Homes V.P., Chris Marlin said.

But Knauf, a German company with affiliates in China, maintains its product is good.

“There are just a lot of wallboard products in place functioning fine,” Knauf spokesperson, Ken Haldin said, “So, we believe we put out a very excellent product in the marketplace.”

Jeff Jenkins is the president of Chandler-based Amerok Drywall Distributors. He believes even though the demand for wallboard in Arizona was high during the housing boom, he doubts Chinese drywall made it here.

“It comes in on boats, and by the time people ship it up here, it's expensive and people are not interested in paying that much money,” Jenkins explains.

But he admits, no one knows for sure.

Several state and federal agencies are looking into whether the alleged defective Chinese drywall can cause health problems, and because drywall is something they've never looked into before, it's unclear how long it might be before there are answers.

The consumer product safety commission says so far, it has received 1500 Chinese drywall complaints from 27 states. Five of those have come from right here in Arizona.