Feds link Chinese drywall to 'corrosive environment' in homes
The Consumer Product Safety Commission's unsettling advice to people who live in homes made with Chinese drywall: "Spend as much time outdoors in fresh air as possible."
The CPSC said it has received about 2,091 reports from consumers in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, all with concerns about contaminated drywall in their homes. Occupants have complained of rotten-egg smells; irritated eyes, skin and respiratory systems; asthma attacks and headaches. They also have complained of metals installed in their new homes, including copper pipes and electrical wiring, turning black from corrosion.
On Monday, the CPSC reported there is a "strong association" between homes built with Chinese drywall and levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air and corroding metals around the home. They also found elevated levels of formaldehyde in the air, which CPSC said can be expected in well-insulated new construction. But they speculated that formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide could be combining to produce higher levels of irritation than either would alone.
Earlier studies have shown large amounts of sulfur in drywall imported from China. "In ways still to be determined, hydrogen sulfide gas is being created in homes built with Chinese drywall," the CPSC's statement said.
Most complaints are about homes built in 2006 and 2007, and the large majority--68 percent--are in Florida. Louisiana accounts for 18 percent of complaints. But there have been complaints from the District and Maryland as well. And Virginia, with 82 complaints, or 4 percent of the total, accounts for the third-largest share, according to CPSC. (The other states with significant shares of complaints are Alabama, with 2 percent, and Mississippi, with 4 percent.)
CPSC said it doesn't think any new Chinese drywall has entered the United States this year, although there are several stockpiles of uninstalled drywall already in the country. "The owners of these stockpiles have been notified of this ongoing investigation and advised to notify the CPSC if they sell or dispose of any drywall from their inventory," the CPSC report said.
The government's Interagency Drywall Task Force is now supposed to develop methods to identify homes with a corrosive envirnment and study the effectiveness of remediation methods. Meanwhile, they advise occupants to keep indoor air as cool and dry as possible, open windows -- and, as noted above, spend as much time outdoors as possible.
The agency's Web site has good photographs showing the telltale signs of metal corrosion.
November 23, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
Categories: Fortress Home , Home features , New construction , Remodeling and repair
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