For thousands of Florida homeowners, the Chinese drywall catastrophe couldn’t have hit at a worse time. A contracting economy and a worse-than-stale housing market have already caused home values to plummet. Add to that the likelihood that one’s house might have to be completely gutted before it’s once again safe to live in, and the picture is bleak indeed.
The drywall problem began when the building boom and Hurricane Katrina created a shortage in some building materials, which led some building supply distributors to import several millions of tons of drywall from China. The drywall contains extremely high amounts of sulfuric compounds, which emit a gas that is highly corrosive to some metals, such as those used in air conditioning coils and wiring. The fumes also smell bad and leave many people with headaches, nosebleeds, and respiratory problems.
The enormity of the problem has Floridians pressuring the government for answers and action. Today the Senate approved $2 million to fund an investigation of the Chinese drywall problem.
At today’s Senate hearing on the matter, Bill Nelson (D-Fla) eyed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in hopes of bringing some relief to Floridians struggling who are with the problem. Many people in Nelson’s state have left their homes, complaining of any number of ailments linked to the toxic drywall. Nelson proposed that FEMA provide temporary shelter for displaced homeowners until the problem could be fixed.
“I don’t want words, I want action,” a frustrated Nelson told a panel of consumer advocates and health officials. “It’s been way too slow, but I think we are all in the harness pulling in the same direction.”
To help Florida residents who are affected by the drywall problem, the Florida Department of Health has devoted a section of its website to the matter. http://www.doh.state.fl.us/ teaches visitors what signs to look for should their homes be affected by the corrosive drywall. The website also provides the latest news on the subject and allows consumers to file complaints.