American Companies Poisoned Homeowners With Chinese Drywall

Smelly drywall made in Tianjin, China.

Awhile ago, I wrote a nitpicking reaction to a Wall Street Journal article involving Chinese manufacturing and regulatory corruption. Interestingly, my disagreement with the original writer suggesting that Chinese “pro­duc­ers of baby for­mula dis­cov­ered it was cheaper to poi­son infants than sell authen­tic for­mula” was met with some rather vocal disagreement of its own, by commenters who insisted that I was wrong for disagreeing. My disagreement rested on my knowledge that while many of China’s innumerable milk producers definitely cut corners to squeeze out some more profit for themselves by diluting and adding melamine to the milk they sell to wholesalers, and this milk eventually gets packaged for consumer consumption, few — if any — of these people did so with any expectation — much less intent — of seriously hurting anyone or sending babies to the hospital. A number of commenters begged to differ and insisted otherwise. I remain unpersuaded, mostly because of my understanding of how negligence is different from some intent to harm.

While a Florida jury just awarded 2.5 million USD to a couple over the well-known and ongoing Chinese drywall issue, it has also come out that more and more American builders and construction companies knew long ago about the smelly sulfur gasses in some of the Chinese drywall they purchased, but they chose to stay quiet and keep selling it. One way was by dividing up the Chinese drywall and slipping them into shipments of mostly non-Chinese drywall:

“I told Banner I didn’t want any of it,” Cuomo said. “I sent them a letter, and told them again. But they kept sending it to me, sneaking it in with the deliveries hoping we wouldn’t notice.”

[…]

“Nobody on the jobs said something to me after that first time,” Cuomo said. “The trouble is they all get paid by what they hang, so I guess there wasn’t a motivation to alert me. That, and if you’re talking about 300 sheets being there on a job and only five or 20 sheets were Chinese, they might have just missed it.” He added, “That’s why Banner did it that way. They hoped nobody would realize they’d slipped us a little bit of it with the rest. Now my whole reputation has been tarnished.”

[…]

It is not clear why Banner would have included small amounts of Chinese dry wall in its deliveries to Cuomo since both sides in the transaction were aware of its defects.

It’s “not clear”? Are you serious? Was Banner just shuffling the drywall and accidentally shuffled a few cards from the smelly Chinese drywall deck into the non-Chinese drywall deck? What do you mean it’s “not clear”?

Banner discovered it was cheaper to poison homeowners than sell higher-quality drywall of course!

No no, I’m just teasing. There are plenty of differences between the drywall issue and the melamine milk powder scandal but there are some key similarities here as well, particularly with regards to human behavior. But…I’ll stop now, and let you guys have fun trying to put in my mouth the differences and similarities you think I see.



5 Comments

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  1. Ted

    “Ban­ner dis­cov­ered it was cheaper to poi­son home­own­ers than sell higher-quality dry­wall of course!”

    No argument here. If there were health risks to the consumer and the company knew about them, then I have no sympathies for the company. In a situation like this or the melamine, individuals and experts in the company know better. Unless someone is so stupid as to write an email stating “we can save money by poisoning our clients”, you probably won’t see a conviction, but I will personally hold them to the same professional standards I would expect them to hold me to. I have no problem with someone editorializing and giving a company a deserved thrashing. No matter the country…

  2. bai ren

    ahhh apathy, sweet blissful apathy.
    This is a problem with many employees, why bother when you don’t need to? There is no incentive to raise or adress issues that you are not personally liable for.
    Where is the capitalist answer? How can we motivate employees to care about their work?
    I know this isnt the crux of the issue you are adressing, but it pisses me off.

  3. lolz

    The American mentality towards greed is that it’s all good unless you get caught doing bad things. In general the society admires the smart/devious/evil ones who will never get caught.

  4. WESTERNER

    Indeed America again copies the British historically (ahem that includes little brit me !) with the old phrase ” they knew the price of everything and the value of nothing ! “.
    Both Britain and America are a nation of shopkeepers ready to rip you off. Shame the whole world thinks this is good for business and colludes.

  5. Steve

    Bad business is bad business, no matter in what country it takes place. What a way to ensure repeat business — poison your customer base? That is stupid. Unfortunately there are/have been stupid people in the world, in positions of authority where their mistakes end up costing everyone. I hear alot of people squawk as if all this sort of “poisoning people” activity is coming from China – probably residual communism fear-mongering from the 1950’s. What about entire towns in the US that are being poisoned by acts of domestic acts of corporate incompetence i.e. Mossville, Louisiana. Look at what imbeciles in the oil industry did to the Gulf of Mexico.