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Chinese Regulators Join Drywall Probe

Jun 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A group of officials from China have arrived in the U.S. to investigate problems with drywall made in that country.  According to a report on heraldtribune.com, regulators from the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (ASIQ) arrived in this country the week of June 15.  They have met with U.S. regulators, and have visited at least two states to examine homes built with Chinese drywall.

As of last week, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) had received more than 500 complaints from people in 19 states, as well of the District of Columbia,  involving Chinese drywall.  Homeowners living with the material have reported  that it fills homes with a putrid, “rotten-eggs” odor and cause metals to corrode.  Some have complained of sinus  and respiratory problems that occur while they are in their homes.  Many families have had to leave their homes, and in most instances, buildings must be gutted and the drywall replaced to fix the problem.

It is not yet clear how widespread the Chinese drywall problem is, but it is likely enormous. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. imported roughly 309 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2007.  So far, problems have been reported in Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

According to heraldtribune.com, the CPSC met with  ASIQ regulators earlier this month for some technical meetings.  The Chinese officials also traveled with a CPSC investigative team to observe inspections and sampling conducted by our agency in one home in Florida and two homes in Louisiana. A spokesperson for the CPSC told heraldtribune.com that discussions with the Chinese delegation were "preliminary", and had not reached any conclusion.  The discussions will continue over the coming weeks.

The CPSC is still trying to determine if the Chinese drywall poses a health or safety issue.  As we reported previously, tests  conducted by the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint in the Chinese drywall that were not present in the American wallboard. Last month at a Senate hearing on the Chinese drywall problem, an official from the Centers for Disease Control said that health complaints reported so far are similar to those found when sulfur compounds have contaminated industrial settings.  However, both the EPA and CPSC have said more testing is needed to determine if fumes coming from the drywall might be causing the reported symptoms.


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