First tests find suspect material in Chinese-made drywall
May 19, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Federal environmental officials have found that Chinese-made drywall - suspected of causing serious corrosion in homes throughout Florida, Louisiana and other states - contains three materials not found in samples of U.S.-manufactured wallboard, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office.
Tests on drywall samples were done at the request of Sens. Nelson and Mary Landrieu, who have initiated an investigation into complaints from homeowners in their respective states, Florida and Louisiana, that drywall in newer or rebuilt homes smells like rotten eggs and is causing corrosion of copper wiring and household appliances. In addition, homeowners are complaining of health problems such as asthma, coughing, headaches and insomnia.
The just-concluded tests by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency found that Chinese-made drywall contained sulfur that wasn’t in U.S. drywall, strontium at levels ten times as high as in U.S. drywall and two other organic compounds generally found in acrylic paint that were not detected in any U.S.-made wallboard.
Still, the EPA said more testing is needed, including air sampling in affected houses, to determine whether the drywall is in fact the cause of corroded wiring and appliances and the reported health problems. Tomorrow, Nelson and Landrieu will be filing an amendment to provide emergency funds for the investigation and continued testing.
“We now know there are three things in there that aren’t in other drywall samples,” Nelson said today, after his office reviewed the EPA’s first drywall testing results. “We’ve got the ‘what’ and now we need the ‘why’ – and, how do we fix it?
“In the end, I think all this stuff is going to have to be ripped out,” Nelson said.
“These initial tests provide some answers for our impacted homeowners, but also raise more questions,” Landrieu said. “Sen. Nelson and I are continuing to work closely with federal officials to get answers for families with sick children and pets, construction workers and builders removing the product, and local health officials who are concerned with dumping the drywall in their landfills.”
In February, Nelson asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the investigation of problems in homes constructed with the imported drywall, and for an interim ban on the product. He and Landrieu then filed legislation aimed at initiating a recall in addition to a ban - as more and more people around the country were reporting problems in their homes built with imported drywall.
Lawmakers complained the CPSC was slow to react to consumer complaints and Nelson called for the removal of the agency’s chair, Nancy Nord. President Obama recently announced a new chair of the three-member CPSC board.
The potential scope of the problem looms large. Nelson represents Florida, where an estimated 36,000 homes are believed to contain Chinese-made drywall. Landrieu represents Louisiana, where tons of the drywall was used in post-Hurricane Katrina construction. All told, it’s thought that between 60,000 and 100,000 homes nationwide may contain tainted drywall. Besides Florida and Louisiana, problems also have been seen and reported in the press in Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and California.
On Wednesday, Landrieu and Nelson plan on unveiling a request for additional funds for the probe at 11:30 a.m. in The Senate Radio and Television Gallery in SC-325 of the Capitol. On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee, in response to Landrieu and Nelson’s call, is set to hold the first congressional hearing into the problem of tainted drywall tied to extensive corrosion and health problems in Florida and elsewhere. Nelson sits on the committee; Landrieu is expected to testify.
Other witnesses expected to testify include experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA, CPSC a Florida homeowner affected by the drywall, and a Louisiana homebuilder.