Chinese Drywall Investigation to be Vigorously Pursued: CPSC Chairman

The new head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has vowed to sustain a full-tilt investigation into the reported problems with Chinese drywall.

Chairman Inez Tenenbaum promised a House of Representatives subcommittee on Thursday that the commission would “vigorously pursue its investigation” of the issues with defective drywall imported from China, which have resulted in at least 1,192 complaints from homeowners as of September 4.

The defective Chinese drywall has been blamed for causing foul sulfuric odors, corroding wiring and electrical appliances, and various health complaints from residents living in houses built with the product.

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In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, Tenenbaum laid out a number of goals for the new CPSC commissioner, and took time to specifically address the Chinese drywall problem. Tenenbaum said the commission was “fully committed to finding answers and solutions for all the homeowners who are impacted by this serious situation – and the agency is pouring a record amount of money and manpower toward the goal of helping affected families.”

Millions of sheets of toxic 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 serious of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States. The CPSC has confirmed more than 6 million sheets were imported into the country in 2006, and additional temporary support personnel are being brought in to verify more shipments.

While there have been reports of issues with the drywall from 24 different states, most of the drywall complaints have come from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.

On the same day as the House hearing, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, one of the most outspoken lawmakers on the Chinese drywall issue was briefed by officials from CPSC, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with an update on the problem. Sen. Nelson said he would like a Chinese drywall recall, and is frustrated by the slow pace of the investigations by federal agencies.

Chinese drywall lawsuits have been filed by home owners 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.

Last week, Fallon asked lawyers to identify six cases that could be ready for trial in January 2010.

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