U.S. Calls for Homes With Chinese Drywall to Be Gutted
By Mekanie Trottman
The Wall Street Journal
April 03, 2010
Homeowners should remove potentially defective Chinese drywall from their homes to prevent health and safety problems linked to noxious emissions, U.S. regulators said Friday.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Department of Housing and Urban Development disclosed new information they said indicated that certain Chinese drywall emitted hydrogen sulfide at rates 100 times that of non-Chinese samples, far more than earlier thought.
The announcement could set the stage for Congress to compensate homeowners who face the expense of gutting their homes and replacing the drywall, officials said. One lawmaker said the U.S. should seek compensation from the Chinese government.
Chinese-made drywall, also known as gypsum or wallboard, has been under federal investigation because of complaints that the drywall emits sulfide fumes. Homeowners have complained of rotten-egg smells, corrosion of appliances and health problems such as bloody noses, headaches and respiratory issues.
A spokesman for the CPSC said there hadn't been any signs of long-term health impact from the drywall. He said there was evidence that when homeowners leave homes that contain the suspect drywall, their symptoms go away.
The agencies are still conducting a long-term health assessment on the matter.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received more than 3,000 homeowner complaints from 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico alleging home damage from chemicals emitted from Chinese drywall.
Regulators said in November that there was a "strong association" between chemicals emitted by Chinese drywall and metal corrosion, and that levels of hydrogen sulfide were higher in some houses built with Chinese drywall than in those without it.
Homeowners with drywall problems had hoped those results would pave the way for the government to help them repair billions of dollars in home damage, but it was unclear who would pay.
HUD and the CPSC say there is now a strong foundation set for Congress as it considers relief options for affected homeowners. Consulting firm Towers Watson has estimated U.S. drywall damages of $15 billion to $25 billion.
"Our investigations now show a clear path forward," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a statement. "Based on the scientific work to date, removing the problem drywall is the best solution currently available to homeowners."
Most of the drywall complaints come from Florida.
"The studies find that the drywall is bad enough to require the stuff to be removed from houses," said Sen. Bill Nelson, (D., Fla.). "Now the question is: who pays for it? The way I see it, homeowners didn't cause this. The manufacturers in China did. That's why we've got to go after the Chinese government now."
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