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Why bad Chinese drywall isn’t banned

Scott Tong May 21, 2009
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Why bad Chinese drywall isn’t banned

Scott Tong May 21, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: There’s a Senate hearing today focusing on substandard drywall imported from China. Homeowners in the Southeast say it corrodes wires and pipes inside walls, and it makes people sick. Some senators want to impose a trade ban on all drywall from China. But the problem is a little more complicated than that. From Shanghai, here’s Marketplace’s Scott Tong.


Scott Tong: The suspicious drywall has turned up in 13 states. Homeowners there complain of asthma, headaches and persistent cough.

Yesterday, EPA investigators reported high levels of strontrium inside the drywall. That’s a metal used to make TV screens. And they found sulfur. But so far, health regulators haven’t the levels to be hazardous.

In Beijing, officials are also cooperating. But many trade and export veterans in China think it’s premature for a blanket ban. The manufacturer is a German conglomerate that owns factories in China.

Chris Dockter exports building materials from China to the U.S.:

Chris Dockter: In a lot of cases, it’s not intent to defraud anyone, as much as it is they have a shipping date that they have to ship. And the only supplier they have, you know, is in the case of drywall, pulled their gypsum from a mine that also has some sulfur content.

The mineral gypsum is the main ingredient in drywall. Much of the material used to build American homes is actually sourced locally. Chinese imports only surged temporarily during the building boom after Katrina.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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