Drywall scare in US

Health officials say they are preparing to investigate if Chinese drywall that is making Americans sick is available or installed in homes in Cayman.

Roydell Carter, director of Environmental Health, said his department had received no complaints or official reports that the drywall was in Cayman, but said he would consult with the planning and health officials to see if any steps needed to be taken locally.

‘I’ve heard media reports of this, but we haven’t received any requests to look into this at this stage,’ he said.

The Caymanian Compass contacted the major drywall retailers on island, all of which said their drywall was imported from the United States.

Mr. Carter said the Department of Environment Health would normally deal with product-related health scares if notified by the Planning Department or health officials but could also act on its own initiative.

The Department of Public Health was not yet aware of the health scare in the United States. Director of Public Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said his department usually awaits an alert from the Department of Environmental Health, but now that he had been informed of the problems being encountered in the US, ‘it is our duty to look into it’.

Xinhua, the Chinese official news agency, reported that China was investigating the source of the drywall that had been exported to the United State.

There have been reports of residents in five US states falling ill due to noxious sulpher emanating from the drywall in their homes.

The drywall is reportedly creating sulphur-like odours and corroding such metallic objects as air conditioners, nails, and fixtures.

In Florida alone, more than 150 homeowners claiming to be affected by Chinese drywall are on a list compiled by that state’s Department of Health.

Although previously rarely used in America, drywall was imported from China after the building boom of recent years and post-hurricane repairs created a shortage of drywall created in the US.

Larry Thompson, of AL Thompson, said importing cheaply manufactured drywall from China to Cayman would be unlikely due the high cost of transport. ‘It would cost 15-20 per cent in freight alone,’ he said.

Paul McGeough, building materials manager at Kirk Home Centre said the store would never consider buying drywall from China. ‘We get offered it sometimes, but we would only buy from reputable sources in the US,’ he said.

Cox Lumber and Paramount Carpets, which also supply drywall, said they did not stock supplies from China.

Calls to the Planning Department to determine if any supplies of Chinese drywall had been used in the past to construct homes in Cayman were not returned by press time.