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Chinese Drywall Death Reports Prompt Calls for Further Investigation

Mar 4, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Concerns are growing about the health affects of  Chinese drywall fumes following publication of a Scripps Howard News Service report that found nine deaths have been reported in connection with the defective wallboard. The deaths were uncovered by Scripps Howard after it filed a freedom of information request to get copies of 2,700 drywall complaints filed with  the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

The Scripps Howard report has prompted several lawmakers to demand the deaths be investigated further.  According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has written to the CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking such a probe.

“There has been significant progress in providing homeowners with steps to identify the presence of toxic drywall, and your investigations have found convincing evidence that the drywall releases elevated levels of toxins that can cause a number of problems within homes,” Vitter stated in letters to the two agencies. “Still, however, many questions remain unanswered about health impacts.”

Likewise, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also wants answers. According to Scripps-Howard, Nelson said he spoke with officials from the CPSC asking them to examine reports from homeowners concerned that deaths of family members were associated with toxic material.

According to Scripps Howard, the deaths were primarily among elderly and young people with long-standing medical problems. One case involved the 2008 death of a 9-year-old boy from an asthma attack. His family’s St. Rose Louisiana home had been renovated with Chinese drywall in 2006, and his symptoms reportedly worsened after the renovation.

In another report, an elderly female became ill with lung condition and died. It was later confirmed that Chinese drywall was present in the New Orleans home were she had lived. Other reports included deaths that were the result of heart attacks, and some victims developed cancer.

Exactly how dangerous Chinese drywall fumes are has yet to be determined, but the CPSC maintains that there is no evidence that the deaths uncovered by Scripps Howard have anything to do with the tainted wallboard. Dr. Barbara Manis of the Rockville, Md.-based Building Health Sciences, told Scripps Howard that because toxic drywall acts as an irritant, it could trigger deadly asthma attacks. However, she said here is no evidence that drywall would contribute to heart attacks. Also, it’s unlikely that the drywall would cause cancer, which would take years or decades to develop, Manis told Scripps Howard.

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