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CPSC to Test Chinese Drywall in Virginia

May 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Federal regulators will soon be headed to Virginia to investigate the state's Chinese drywall problem.  According to, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is expected to be in the state in "a week or so" to test homes with Chinese drywall.

Virginia is just one of several states where homeowners have complained about Chinese drywall that fills homes with a putrid, "rotten-eggs" odor, causes metals to corrode, and  leads to sinus and respiratory problems in people living with the material.  The CPSC has been in Florida - where such reports first originated - testing drywall, but has not reached any conclusions about the health hazards posed by the wallboard. However, at  a Senate hearing last week, CPSC  toxicologist Lori Saltzman said that people living with the Chinese drywall in  16 states where problems had been reported did have common health symptoms. She also said that some CPSC investigators had experienced similar symptoms when visiting affected homes in Florida.

Several days before the Senate hearing, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released results of tests it conducted that compared Chinese drywall to American-made material. The tests found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint in the Chinese drywall that were not present in the American wallboard. The agency said more testing is needed to determine if any of the compounds found in the Chinese drywall are responsible for problems reported by homeowners.

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. In Virginia, the construction supply firm Venture Supply has said it imported 100,000 sheets of China-made drywall between March 2006 and December 2008. According to a lawsuit filed by a group of Hampton Roads homeowners, some of that drywall made it into the 240-unit Harbor Walk condo complex in Norfolk.

One builder in Virginia, The Dragas Companies, has acknowledged some of the homes it built have been the subject of drywall complaints. As we’ve reported previously, the firm is inspecting nearly every home it built in The Hampshires at Greenbrier in Chesapeake and in Cromwell Park in Virginia Beach. Dragas is also paying to fix homes with imported drywall and helping residents relocate for a few months while the work is being done.

Last week's Senate hearing was attended by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).  Though not a member of the subcommittee that convened the hearing, he was permitted to ask questions.  According to, the Senator urged officials to publish information for homeowners on how to deal with the drywall while legal and regulatory agencies work on a resolution.  

Warner also voiced concerns that the Chinese drywall problem could turn out to be much worse than first thought.  "I fear that we're just at the tip of an iceberg of what could be a... national disaster, that is both a health care disaster and for many families is going to be a financial disaster,"  Warner said.

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