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Senator Calls for Chinese Drywall Hearing

Apr 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A key U.S. Senator is calling for a hearing on the Chinese drywall problem that has been plaguing homeowners in Florida and many other states.  According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, has sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee requesting the hearing.

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.

According to the Times-Picayune, Sen. Landrieu is seeking a hearing that would focus on the possible health affects linked to the Chinese drywall.  She also wants the proceeding  to examine how well federal agencies have responded to complaints about the drywall and determine whether government can provide additional expertise, the Times-Picayune said.

In the letter, dated April 22, Landrieu also said she was concerned that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) wasn't doing enough to address the Chinese drywall problem.  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 week, 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.

CPSC spokesperson Joe Martyak told those attending last week's 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.

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