Product Liability

Bill seeks to ban importation of substandard building materials

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich) has introduced a bill that seeks to block the import of substandard building materials into the United States. The bill, H.R. 2155, would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the authority to prohibit sub-standard steel, cement, and drywall from entering the country.

Stupak’s bill comes after an influx of low-grade, allegedly toxic drywall manufactured by Chinese company Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd found its way into thousands of homes in Florida and several other states.

Although the problem is likely to be widespread, with cases of caustic drywall being reported as far away as British Columbia, the epicenter of the problem appears to be in southern Florida, where the housing market has already been crippled by the credit crisis and slow economy.

By prohibiting the importation of poor building materials, Stupak hopes that the U.S. could stave off future construction disasters, which can jeopardize the safety of Americans while ruining their health and bank accounts.

“Americans expect structural building materials to be safe and effective,” Stupak said in a statement online. “Industry testing and recent media accounts indicate much of the building materials pouring into the United States from overseas, particularly from China, are unsafe and unreliable.”

The bill also raises concerns that customs inspectors do not have the authority to reject shoddy imports such as Chinese steel, and thus no assurances can be made that those materials will not end up in construction and infrastructure.

Stupak contends that China’s rapidly growing steel exports have dire consequences for American steel makers and industries that use steel. “Currency manipulation and policies by the Chinese government have encouraged sub-standard Chinese steel to flood the U.S. market.

Independent laboratory tests have confirmed that significant quantities of Chinese steel do not meet high-strength requirements,” said a statement on Stupak’s website.

This junk should be turned around and shipped right back to China,” Stupak said. “CBP made it clear in our discussions that they lack the authority to reject a product so I have introduced legislation to give the agency the authority to reject and not offload sub-standard building materials in the United States.”

“A cheaper product does not save money when that product creates costly health and safety hazards for Americans,” Stupak added. “Federal law should ensure whether it is food, drugs, toys or building materials that the products imported into this country are held to the same rigorous health and safety standards as American-made goods. If not, then that product should never be allowed to enter our country.”