Chinese drywall makes new house toxic?

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – For most, it's the biggest investment of your life: a brand new home. But what do you do if that new house turns out to be toxic? A Richmond man says it happened to him. His home has defective drywall imported from China during the housing boom.

Our investigation has uncovered 12 cases of Chinese drywall in Richmond.

Ricky Edmonds moved into his new, town home in 2006. It's in the middle of a new, pricey community for Richmond's Oregon Hill. It's called The Overlook for its view of the James River.

"When I first moved here almost four years ago I was so thoroughly happy to be in the city, to be convenient to everything," said Edmonds.

But, Edmonds says his dream home quickly turned into a nightmare.

"I thought maybe I wasn't living right. I mean it's just, everything would break," he said.

It started with the heating and air conditioning unit.

"The first year I lived here it was probably worked on 25 times," he said.

Edmonds could smell a strange odor, like rotten eggs in the house. His silver was starting to corrode.

"When I first purchased the home I bought all brand spanking new GE appliances, which is one of the top of their lines, and within 14 months my refrigerator had gone bad," he said.

In four years he's been through four TV's, 26 cable boxes, and two refrigerators. He says it all made sense on May 22, 2009 when he got a letter from his developer, Steven Middleton. The letter stated, "Drywall imported from China, may have been installed in some of the homes at The Overlook."

The drywall is considered defective. Reports show that the walls inside a home with this drywall emits sulfur gasses into the air, which eat and corrode copper and other metal surfaces.

"It destroys everything. It's destroyed TV's, it's destroyed computers," Edmonds said.

Edmonds hired an engineer, who concluded, the walls of his home are made of the drywall and are emitting sulfur gases. He found damage to copper pipes, plumbing. They were black and powdering. He found damage to electrical wiring and appliances.

"It's bad. It's toxic and it has ruined my home," said Edmonds.

Edmonds started having nosebleeds and worries about his health. It's unknown at this time what the long term effects of the drywall are, but a toxicologist with the University of New Orleans told a judge, prolonged exposure to the gases can cause serious problems, especially to developing children.

Twelve homes in all at The Overlook had the drywall. Eleven settled the issue and were repaired by developer Steven Middleton. Edmonds filed suit. Middleton's insurance company counter sued, saying it's not responsible to pay the claim.

Middleton's attorney John Rasmussen said, "Not all the properties at The Overlook had Chinese drywall. We resolved the drywall issue with the other property owners. We tried to resolve it with Mr. Edmonds and we were unable to do so. Based on pending litigation we don't want to comment further."

Edmonds has moved out of his house and into an apartment.

"I didn't want to do it. I can't financially afford to do it for long, but by the same token I just think the house is dangerous," he said.

By sharing his story, he hopes others in Richmond will ask about the drywall when buying a new home. He also wants the U.S. government to take more responsibility.

"Somebody needs to be looking at these products coming into this country. My home is my biggest investment and to go from a $400,000 property to what I consider to be worthless today. That's devastating," said Edmonds.

So, how do you know if your home has Chinese drywall and what can you do?

Well, first, people often notice a strange odor that increases the hotter it gets in the house. Appliances often go on the fritz; especially air conditioning units and products with copper wiring. Senator Mark Warner's office, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission are all investigating Chinese drywall. VA's secretary of Commerce created this web site about the drywall.

There's no final consensus on what to do, but most homeowners appear to be getting the fastest results in court.

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