Chinese Drywall Corrosion Problems Confirmed by CPSC Study

Federal investigators say that they have found evidence that confirms a link between Chinese drywall and corrosion problems being reported by homeowners across the country.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on Monday that results from a major indoor air study and two corrosion studies have found a “strong association” between Chinese drywall and corrosive effects that may destroy wiring and damage appliances throughout the home. Investigators found that corrosion from Chinese drywall is likely caused by high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the defective drywall.

About 1,900 homeowners in 30 states have made reports to the CPSC about Chinese drywall problems, including reports of foul sulfuric odors, corroded wiring and electrical appliances, and complaints of various health issues, such as headaches, nose bleeds and respiratory problems.

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The CPSC, along with several other federal agencies have formed an Interagency Drywall Task Force to address the problem, which could affect many thousands more homes across the country.

The three studies, including air sampling done at 51 homes affected by Chinese drywall, found that homes with Chinese wallboard had higher levels of hydrogen sulfide gas than those with domestic drywall. They believe this gas is the main cause of Chinese drywall corrosion. In addition, researchers found that other air contaminants, including formaldehyde, also contributed to the corrosion.

“We now have the science that enables the Task Force to move ahead to the next phase – to develop both a screening process and effective remediation methods,” said U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Ongoing studies will examine health and safety effects, but we are now ready to get to work fixing this problem.”

Scientists from Environmental Health & Engineering (EH&E) also created a sheet-by-sheet method of being able to determine which pieces of drywall were made in China. They found that by using X-ray fluorescence and infrared instruments, markers could be detected that are unique to Chinese drywall.

Millions of sheets of defective drywall were imported from China into the United States between 2004 and 2007, due to a domestic shortage caused by a housing boom and construction following a series of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States. The CPSC has confirmed more than 6 million sheets were imported into the country in 2006.

Chinese drywall lawsuits have been filed by homeowners throughout the United States against drywall manufacturers and distributers. In June, all of the federal drywall litigation was consolidated and centralized in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation. The cases were assigned to U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who has put the cases on a “fast track,” with trials involving property damage claims set to begin in early 2010.

The first trials will be property damage-only claims, for cases involving Chinese drywall problems like corroding electrical equipment, and homeowners had to have their houses gutted and partially rebuilt in order to get rid of the sulfuric gases.

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