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Chinese Drywall Plan Detailed at Congressional Briefing

Apr 24, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

At a congressional briefing yesterday, federal regulators laid out a two-part strategy for investigating the nationwide problems with defective Chinese drywall.  While officials with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) promised that it is being aggressive in its investigation, according to a report on PalmBeachPost.com, commission officials said that a solution to the Chinese drywall problem would likely not come quickly.

Chinese drywall has been causing problems in newer homes across the country.  The material reportedly emits sulfur fumes that fill homes with  a “rotten eggs” odor.  The fumes from the drywall have also been linked to corroding metals in many of the homes, and people living with the material have reported sinus and respiratory problems. Many residents  have had to leave their homes because the Chinese drywall has made them unlivable, and some builders are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.

Florida was the first state to report such problems with Chinese drywall.  But over the past several months, it has become clear that the issue is a national one.  Homeowners in other states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina, have reported the odor, corrosion and health problems related to Chinese drywall.  According to the Associated Press, the U.S. imported roughly 5 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2008. Estimates indicate the drywall may be in more than 100,000 homes.

So far most reports have come from the south, were warm, humid air seems to trigger the drywall's emissions.  In dryer, cooler climates, it could be years before the problems with Chinese drywall become apparent.

As we reported previously, a team from the CPSC has been in Florida trying to determine if the fumes coming from Chinese drywall pose a health risk.  According to PalmBeachPost.com, at yesterday's congressional briefing, agency officials said the testing plan consists of two parts: chamber and elemental testing  to determine what products are contained in the drywall, and then in-house air sampling.  The chamber testing is being conducted now, and results could be available in about two months, PalmBeachPost.com said.

CPSC spokesperson Joe Martyak told those attending the meeting that the CPSC's was being "aggressive" in its efforts, but cautioned that the investigation would take time. "We don't have short-term answers. ... It's going to take time for agencies to come up with answers to the questions involved," Martyak said.

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Standards and Technology attended yesterday's briefing, as well as staff members from the offices of  Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, PalmBeachPost.com said.

The lawmakers have all sponsored legislation in Congress calling for a recall of Chinese drywall, as well as a ban on the material.  Nelson has also called for the resignation of the head of the CPSC because of the agency’s slow response to the drywall issue.


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