Chinese Drywall Update: Mainstream Media Takes Notice


corroded two year old air conditioner coil

TreeHugger has been on the Chinese drywall story since it started in Sarasota, (Toxic Drywall Rotting Houses, Sickening Occupants in Florida) when the government and the builders all said it was harmless. We even looked at some of the possible contaminants.


Silver tarnished by drywall, photo by Aaron Kessler

Finally the government started paying attention when a Florida Senator learned that his house was contaminated: Feds finally notice

But the lack of concern among the green building scene troubled me a lot. Here is a big story- thousands of houses filled with drywall that is outgassing something, corroding building components and making people sick. I wrote in Update: Toxic Drywall Could Be All Over The Place:

Nobody seems to care that we continue to build houses that are sealed all year with the air conditioning running, while formaldehyde, radon and now who knows what from drywall build up inside. That is the real scandal- that there is no requirement for fresh air.


Now the story has gone mainstream, with a big splash of a post from the Associated Press, picked up by Yahoo and the Washington Post, with the usual heart-rending interviews:

"It's like your hopes and dreams are just gone," said Mary Ann Schultheis, who has suffered burning eyes, sinus headaches, and a general heaviness in her chest since moving into her brand-new, 4,000-square foot house in this tidy South Florida suburb a few years ago.

She has few options. Her builder is in bankruptcy, the government is not helping and her lender will not give her a break.

"I'm just going to cry," she said. "We don't know what we're going to do."


What is even more tragic about this story: many of the houses rebuilt after Katrina were built with the stuff, and may have to be stripped out and rebuilt again.

This could be bigger than ureaformaldehyde foam was twenty years ago where every house that had been insulated with the stuff became unmarketable. It is hitting at the peak of the foreclosure crisis, no doubt making every house touched by the stuff an impossible sale. But it is a symptom of a problem, not the root cause, which is a total lack of concern about the air quality in our houses, whether it be from radon, phthalates, fire retardants or formaldehyde.

It is also time that we stop thinking about Energy Star and start thinking about healthy building. Instead of sealing everyone up and giving them ground source heat pumps and calling them green, we should insist that people's health comes first, and that there shouldn't be a house built in America that doesn't have an adequate supply of fresh air. Basically, if it passes a blower test, it fails as a healthy house unless there is a heat recovery ventilator or enthalpy recovery ventilator installed as well.

Toxic Drywall Rotting Houses, Sickening Occupants in Florida
Update: Toxic Drywall Could Be All Over The Place
Chinese Drywall Update: Feds Finally Notice
From Planet Green
Get a Heat Recovery Ventilator if You Seal Your House Up Tight

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