CPSC study confirms homeowner's worst fears about Chinese drywall

putting up drywallA study of 51 homes released this week by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found a strong association between homes with Chinese drywall and levels corrosive hydrogen sulfide, which gives off a smell similar to rotten eggs.

It was the largest investigation ever taken on by the CPSC, costing $3.5 million and involving 15% of the staff, according to the CPSC.

CPSC has received more than 2,000 complaints from homeowners in 32 states, reporting that their health had been adversely affected by odors given off by the suspect material. Victims also reported blackening or corrosion of metal in their homes, including electrical wiring, appliances and air conditioning systems. The complaints stem from homes built largely in 2006 and 2007, following an unexpected demand for building materials spurred on by the destructive hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005.

By confirming the corrosive effects of the Chinese sourced drywall, the CPSC hopes to develop protocols that will identify homes with the problem material and determine effective remediation methods. "Ongoing studies will examine health and safety effects, but we are now ready to get to work fixing this problem,"CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a press release.

To date though, the CPSC states it remains difficult to estimate the total number of homes that contain the toxic drywall and recently reached out to the governors of all 50 states to assemble the fullest possible accounting. Together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CPSC is also monitoring imports and believes no new Chinese drywall has entered the United States in 2009.

What to do if you suspect your house has Chinese drywall
If you have reason to believe that your home was built with Chinese drywall, the CPSC recommends you take the following four steps:

  1. If you are suffering from the health symptoms described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your physician as soon as possible. If you experience any of the electrical or fire safety concerns described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector as soon as possible.
  2. Contact your State and local authorities to report your concerns and get direction on any help or resources in your area.
  3. Report your concerns to the CPSC using this form.
  4. Consider contacting your insurance company and homebuilder to report your concerns.

For more information on the problem and to monitor ongoing progress in the investigation, go to the CPSC's Drywall Information Center.

Tom Kraeutler reports on toxic black mold and other home repair issues each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."


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