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Blog/Opinion

Blog/Opinion: Dangers of imported building materials

This is not another case of "everything causes cancer." Believe it or not, a limited number of homes, mostly built between 2004 and 2006, seem to have walls that give off poisonous fumes. How and why? It seems that drywall imported during that period from China, with its main ingredient, gypsum, gives off noxious fumes and has caused residents to experience ailments like dizziness, headaches, insomnia, not to mention a constant rotten egg smell. Homebuilding giant Lennar has admirably stepped up to this issue, offering to re-do the interiors of these homes for residents, but lesser firms are either out of business or in denial.

 

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Drywall usually is not imported, but during the homebuilding boom materials were scarce so some drywall was brought in from overseas. As is often the case, the Chinese manufacturer (actually a German company, Knauf, and its Chinese subsidiary) denies any wrongdoing. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission is looking into the matter as we speak.

Bigger issue -- what about imports of material that can be made in the U.S.? What about the environmental impact of importing materials that can be sourced much closer to home? Shipping alone used a wide variety of fuels to get the building materials here in the first place. Now the product is found to be noxious and causing people to get sick. So where do we go from here? How do we protect ourselves from questionable products? I have list of questions you need to ask your homebuilder before signing on the dotted line.

 

  1. Find out exactly where they are sourcing their materials for the project, from drywall to flooring to countertops, you want company names and addresses -- upon receiving this information, it is up to you to do the detective work.
  2. Get references from your builder, make calls, if other large developments or projects are in your area, go check them out. You want the facts -- are current homeowners happy with the quality of construction?
  3. Get the history of the property footprint on which you are building. As in, was there ever a previous structure on that ground? Was it industrial or residential? If the former, what was produced there?

This helps alleviate future issues that not only take a toll on your wallet but your family's health.

 

 

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Dangers of imported building materials:  Created on February 23rd, 2010.  Last Modified on April 11th, 2010

About Jennifer Schwab

Jennifer Schwab

As Director of Sustainability, Jennifer is responsible for all environmental information, education, and initiatives at Sierra Club Green Home.com.


Jennifer studied environmental design and sustainability at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, then completed her Master's in Urban Planning and Sustainable Design at the University of California -- Irvine.  Jennifer is a LEED Accredited Practitioner and serves on the USGBC Education Committee.  She also serves on advisory boards for the UC-Irvine Sustainability Leadership Program and the Healthy House Institute.  Jennifer consults on energy efficiency and sustainability for various corporate clients, restaurants, and hotels.


Jennifer serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for Source 44, a carbon footprint assessment company based in San Diego; and on the Board of Advisors for BlogWorld Expo, the largest social media tradeshow in the country.


She is a widely quoted media analyst appearing in hundreds of articles both in print and online.  She has been interviewed by NY Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Dwell magazine, CNBC, Good Housekeeping magazine, Fortune magazine, the LA Times, The Oregonian, Forbes, Self magazine, Kiwi magazine, the Examiner, EcoSalon, Consumer Digest, SheKnows, and Planet Green, among many others.  She has also appeared on NBC-U, Good Morning America, and Fox News.


Away from work, Jennifer can be found on the tennis court or in the Bikram yoga studio. She follows art and design avidly and is also a trained Cessna pilot. She also serves on the LA Museum of Contemporary Art Photography Selection committee.  You can find her innermost green thoughts as a contributor to the Huffington Post, LOHAS, BlogHer, Healthy House Institute, Intent.com, as well as on the home page of www.sierraclubgreenhome.com

 

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