Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chinese drywall provides another example of the dangers of unregulated markets

The toxic Chinese drywall is an example of how unregulated markets provide many socially undesirable outcomes. Can you imagine what might be in products if there were no safety and labeling laws?

This is similar to the 2007 problem with lead in toys imported from China.

In the November 7, 2009 article "Expert: Problem of defective Chinese drywall is no surprise," Allison Ross says "During a summit on defective Chinese drywall, a toxicologist said that kind of problem was expected."
TAMPA -- It was just a matter of time before a problematic building material would make it into American homes.

That's what state toxicologist Dr. David Krause told attendees during a summit on defective Chinese drywall Friday in Tampa.

"That this took so long to occur is somewhat surprising,'' Krause said.

He said that Americans have for decades used building materials that were altered to be more durable and put them into homes that were built to be tighter and less breathable.

Combine that with an absence of indoor air-quality standards, and "this was bound to happen with some material at some point,'' Krause said.

But now the law of unintended consequences has hit home hard for thousands of families in Florida and throughout the United States, who are struggling to figure out what to do with defective Chinese drywall that gives off a sulfuric gas.


Almost 1,900 homeowners in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have complained of having a problematic drywall that's tied to corrosion of metal in their homes and blamed for giving them headaches, nosebleeds and respiratory irritation.

Part of the problem, Krause told the gathering of nearly 400, is a "lack and absence of indoor air-quality standards.''

He later told reporters that "we sometimes just get away from 'meat and potatoes' public health and stewardship,'' saying that the last major effort he was involved in to examine product emissions was in the mid-1990s.

"It was a valiant effort, but there was no interest,'' he said.

However, stricter regulation of chemicals in products would be a major undertaking, he added.

"You're talking about interstate commerce, and in this case, now international commerce,'' he said.

His comments wrapped up a two-day Technical Symposium on Corrosive Imported Drywall that brought together experts in both the private and public sector to discuss the latest details of testing and research being done on the corrosive drywall problem.


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was the keynote speaker Friday. He said he is pushing President Barack Obama to address the defective drywall issue when he goes to China next week.

"At the end of the day, the financial wherewithal to make these homeowners whole is going to be the party responsible. I think that's the Chinese government,'' Nelson said. "We've just got to keep agitating on this.''

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