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Federal Chinese Drywall Probe Revving Up

May 4, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Problems with defective Chinese drywall have prompted the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC)  to ask for emergency funds from Congress.  According to palmbeachpost.com, the funds will be used for expenses related to the CPSC's Chinese drywall probe.

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.

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. At a congressional briefing last month, agency officials said the testing strategy 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.

The CPSC is seeking $2 million in  additional funding for its drywall probe.  That money will be spent on an automated response system and Web site dedicated to drywall, additional testing, drywall-related travel to China and U.S. gypsum plants and fire protection evaluations, palmbeachpost.com said.

According to the palmbeachpost.com, the CPSC has received more than 180 complaints from residents in 13 states and the District of Columbia of health problems or corrosion of metal components believed to be related to Chinese drywall.  The agency has investigative teams in all but one of those states.

In addition to testing Chinese drywall, the CPSC is working with customs officials to monitor shipments of Chinese-made drywall, and speaking with officials in China to understand the origins of the problem, palmbeachpost.com said.

While the CPSC is taking the lead role in the federal Chinese drywall probe, other agencies are involved.   In a letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency's environmental response team in Edison, N.J., is now analyzing samples of defective drywall found in Florida homes and comparing it to product samples of domestically manufactured drywall.  A work group also has been established to develop an indoor sampling plan to find out what homes are affected by defective drywall contamination.  That sampling plan should be in place by the end of June, the letter said.  

Other agencies involved in the federal drywall investigation include the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  Health departments in the affected states are also working with the feds.


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