One of the biggest environmental stories in recent years is the sad saga of Chinese drywall. Upwards of 60,000 homes, and possibly as many as 300,000, are affected by the sulfide spewing gypsum board. In addition to the highly publicized corrosion of all sorts of metal parts, including air conditioning coils, and the obnoxious sulfide odors, nearly all residents of these homes are reporting health effects—usually upper respiratory complaints.
Moreover, there are dozens of reports of affected families who have left their homes, whose symptoms disappear completely in a few days. Absent actual medical tests, field confirmation of health effect etiology does not get a whole lot better than this.
So, you might ask, where are all the Greenie groups? Well, some of them are talking about the issue, but for the most part, they are doing little more than posting news items that have already appeared elsewhere. Google searches will pull up all kinds of hits, but virtually anything aggressive turns out to be a comment posted to some blog connected with a particular organization.
Consider Consumer Reports. The respected magazine still supports the horrific Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which was essentially an absurd overreaction to the lead paint Chinese toys of a few years ago. Bear in mind that there were already laws in place to deal with the problem, and CPSIA did nothing but create a bonanza for the large toy companies who imported the contaminated toys in the first place. This is because regulation ALWAYS favors larger companies. Tough luck for the little guys who did the right thing.
Nonetheless, CR was lavish in its praise of CPSIA, and still cites horror stories (all of which were in violation of laws on the books since the 1970s) as naive proof of their correct position.
OK, but where are they on Chinese drywall? How about nowhere.
This is not only a major environmental issue, it is clearly a consumer issue, since the affected people all purchased houses. So, to quote the cliché, where’s the outrage?
Before I answer that, consider the official position of the federal government on Chinese drywall. The Feds have spent millions of dollars to come up with these findings:
- There is a “strong association” between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall, and corrosion in those homes.
- Air quality studies detected hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde at concentrations below irritant levels, but additive effects might be occurring.
- More investigation is ongoing to determine safety effects of corrosion.
I am personally aware of crude but effective tests performed by contractors months ago that proved the first point, and those guys did not need to qualify their results with “strong association.” It is virtually a precept of residential indoor air quality studies that additive effects of toxins that may be present at less than “irritant” levels are the major source of problems. How much more study is required to determine that continuing corrosion will inevitably promote safety issues, especially with electrical devices?
In short, the Feds are taking a go-slow approach here. But why? If trace levels of some chemical are found in an industrial workplace, the cavalry rushes in, fines are assessed, and new laws are written, usually in the absence of meaningful health data. So what’s the difference in the case of Chinese drywall?
Easy. Despite the smokescreen of pointless legal action against builders (who were victims themselves) and an especially ludicrous lawsuit against the biggest Chinese drywall company, the only way this problem gets solved is via a federal bailout. They know it, and we know it. They and we also know that the public sentiment against bailouts is not exactly sympathetic at the moment, so they are simply playing for time. If it were a case of the Feds forcing someone else to spend money, they would be all over it like white on rice.
As to the usual fear entrepreneurial “green” groups such as NRDC, EWG, and US-PIRG, since there is no evil American corporation to blame this on—thus not fitting their Marxist tendencies—they are silent, even though real health effects are being experienced by real people.
Here lie exposed the true colors of the Greens, along with their usually supportive chemophobic federal agencies.