Chinese Cast Iron: A Colossal Cause for Concern?
Throughout the last decade, the housing industry has been flooded with high-profile Chinese-manufactured product failures prompting a worrisome construction defect epidemic. The multifamily industry has already been exposed to these troubling products, that often produce negative health effects to residents and damage to buildings, in addition to the reluctance of insurance companies to cover or remediate costs associated with replacing the defective product. The following examples show a history of concern regarding Chinese-manufactured products:
During the construction boom in the early-mid 2000’s, and following a severely damaging hurricane season in 2005, a shortage of drywall spurred builders to import Chinese-manufactured material, particularly to the Southeast region. Issues with the product included pre-mature corrosion of electronics and appliances, caused by hydrogen sulfide, as well as health effects from short and long-term exposure to low-levels of sulfur gases emitted from the material. Several class action lawsuits have been filed against importers and manufacturers to varying degrees of settlement success.
Last March, when CBS News’s “60 Minutes” exposed Lumber Liquidators practice of importing defective laminate flooring to the U.S., the company pulled Chinese-produced flooring from distribution. However, the negative effects of the material linger: the CDC recently published a report announcing that “certain Lumber Liquidator flooring from China could have triple the amount of cancer-causing formaldehyde than originally thought.” While this material involved only certain product lines of the laminate flooring, class action lawsuits are currently in the works.
Is Chinese-produced cast iron piping next?
According to an article published in the San Diego Attorney Journal, evidence from high-profile construction defect cases indicate that during the building boom from 2000-2008, the majority of mid and high-rise residential buildings in the San Diego and greater Southern California area were built containing defective Chinese-manufactured cast iron sanitary drain waste and vent (DWV) piping. This defective product allegedly results in significant pipe leaks and property damage, due to improper coating and manufacturing standards.
While these claims have already resulted in class-action settlements, there are extraneous factors such as proper installation, coating, and maintenance that should be considered when determining if the cast iron piping in question is truly defective.
Nonetheless, given the recent attention to this contentious issue, if you believe your multifamily property contains Chinese-manufactured cast iron piping, we recommend an on-site audit of your sanitary plumbing system for material defects. Our skilled team of repipe specialists have the expertise to manage the replacement of defective piping in mid or high-rise buildings, using only North American-produced cast iron piping.