Chinese Drywall to be regulated

After a host of complaints in Hampton Roads and other localities over the effects of Chinese drywall, Congress has taken action.

Yesterday, the Drywall Safety Act of 2012, based in large part by the efforts of Rep. Scott Rigell and Sen. Mark Warner, passed congress and is en route to the president.

The construction product is said to damage electrical work and cause health problems – specifically respiratory concerns.

The legislation is also one of the few times true bipartisanship has broken out in DC. The bill easily passed both chambers.

“This is a bill about protecting American families – their health and financial well-being. Too many of our friends and neighbors have suffered because of the effects of Chinese drywall in their homes, and this bill ensures that preventative standards are in place so no American family is faced with the hardship and heartache from contaminated drywall ever again,” said Rigell, “China must also be held accountable for the devastation this product has already caused, and we will continue to fight for these victims as well.”

“Hundreds of Virginia homeowners have been put through hell after building or repairing their homes with toxic drywall. Our bipartisan legislation should ensure that, in the future, more Virginians will not have to go through similar nightmares,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation helps make sure that unsafe drywall won’t be sold in the future, and that the manufacturers of tainted drywall will be held accountable.”

Specifically, according to a Rigell press release, the legislation places the following regulations on the import:

• Express a Sense of Congress that the Chinese manufacturers need to make restitution to the victims.

• Institute a labeling requirement so that defective drywall can be traced to the manufacturer.

• Set chemical standards to limit the amount of sulfur that can be present in domestic and imported drywall, allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission two years to promulgate a rule pertaining to sulfur content.

• Require Consumer Product Safety Commission to update their remediation guidelines to prevent contaminated drywall from being reused or recycled.

At first glance, this seems like an obvious thing for Congress to do, but are there any unintended consequences?

Have we started down the path where other imports will be subject to regulation and restriction – an effective tariff on foreign goods? Will this further restrict trade to US markets? Is this such a bad thing and could it promote US manufacturing?

This is where balancing promoting the “general welfare” and securing “the blessings of liberty” has to be taken into consideration.

The other issue is that this is a pretty specific regulation at a specific country. Will China take any offense to this regulation? Will it result in regulation on any of our products entering their country?

I doubt anything dire or of any significant economic impact will come from this congressional action, if the president signs the bill into law. However, whenever we ask congress to regulate anything, there are other questions that need to be asked. I wonder if they were?