Problems with Chinese Drywall Reported in 21 States: CPSC

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that complaints involving problems with Chinese drywall have been received from 21 different states and Washington D.C. The defective drywall is also now being investigated as a possible fire hazard, due to its corrosive effects on wiring and household appliances.

The CPSC sent a letter to several U.S. Senators on July 7 with a status report about the Chinese drywall issues that have plagued homeowners throughout the United States. The report disclosed that material from the drywall likely comes from the ShanDong province in China, and CPSC officials are in the process of getting approval from the Chinese government to conduct a fact-finding tour of those mines.

At least 608 incident reports problems with the drywall from China have been received by the CPSC, with the majority of reports coming from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.

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The drywall was imported into the United States earlier this decade due to a domestic shortage caused by a housing boom and construction following a series of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States. It has been found that the drywall has high amounts of sulfur compounds, which are causing homeowners to experience foul odors, corrosion of electrical equipment and a host of health problems.

The status report lays out a roadmap for the CPSC investigation into the Chinese drywall problems, indicating that over the next several months the Commission will conduct in-home air sampling, laboratory elemental characterization studies, and electrical and fire safety investigations. The CPSC is the lead agency in the investigative efforts, which also include coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CPSC confirms that at least 5,503,694 sheets of Chinese drywall were imported into the U.S. in 2006, and it is expected that additional shipments were received that the Commission is not aware of. U.S. officials have had difficulty tracking the import of Chinese drywall because it shares the same commodity code as acoustic or ceiling tiles.

In-house investigations conducted by field staff have raised some new concerns about potential Chinese drywall fire hazards, as the corrosive effects of the gases could impact smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, natural gas appliances and gas lines. The CPSC hopes that a metallurgical analysis will determine what, exactly, the effect of Chinese drywall corrosion will be on such equipment.

Chinese drywall lawsuits have been filed by a number of homeowners against U.S. distributors, builders and foreign drywall manufacturers in courts throughout the United States. Last month the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) ordered that the federal Chinese drywall litigation will be consolidated and centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana for pretrial proceedings. The cases will be handled in a coordinated manner to avoid duplicative discovery and inconsistent pretrial rulings.


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