Faulty Chinese drywall causes corrosion, federal study says

The federal government has linked some Chinese drywall to corrosion found in homes in South Florida and across the country, but questions remain about what steps need to be taken in order to fix the problem.

(MIAMI HERALD)   What thousands of homeowners in South Florida and nationwide have believed about Chinese drywall was validated Monday when the Consumer Product Safety Commission said there is a link between the imported material and problems with corrosion in homes that have it. But the agency also said they don’t believe the problems are as widespread as early estimates predicted.

The conclusion followed testing at 51 homes in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia that found “a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall and corrosion in those homes.”

Homeowners have been complaining for about a year to federal and state government agencies that their homes smell of sulfur or rotten eggs, the copper in their air-conditioning units and electrical wires in their homes are corroding and that other metals are turning black. They have also reported problems breathing, headaches and nosebleeds.

But until this week, no agency had officially linked corrosion problems with drywall. Thesafety commission is still investigating the link between wallboard and health concerns. Monday’s report said chemicals found in the homes tested were at levels lower than what might be expected to cause irritation, but the combination of those compounds with other substances could lead to the symptoms families are experiencing.

The agency cautioned that not all Chinese drywall is a source of problems.

“Not all drywall is alike,” said Jack McCarthy, president of Environmental Health & Engineering, which conducted the testing for CPSC. “Not all Chinese drywall is alike. It depends on what it’s made of — not the country it came from.”

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said the agency is “not limited in the scope of our investigation to just Chinese drywall.”

To date, the CPSC has received 2,091 complaints reports from residents in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components are related to Chinese drywall. The majority of those — more than 1,400 — are from Florida residents.

While the problem is widespread, Wolfson said previous estimates that as many as 100,000 homes nationwide may be affected are likely incorrect. Complaints reported to state and federal agencies don’t foreshadow that large of a number.

The agency has spent about $3.5 million on its investigation, which it said is the largest in its history. The next phase of the agency’s work is on finding ways to identify problem drywall and come up with ways to treat homes.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was unimpressed with the consumer protection agency’s efforts.

“I’m still disappointed the government is taking too long to establish whether there’s a link between drywall, corrosion and health problems,” he said.

Many homeowners who are either living in their smelly homes or have moved out — left to juggle mortgage payments and rent — are still waiting for financial help. Some builders, including Miami-based Lennar and Sunrise-based GL Homes, have offered to repair affected homes. Many homeowners are pursuing lawsuits against foreign manufacturers that could take years to resolve.

Only one company, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjian, has agreed to be served with a federal class-action lawsuit and not force plaintiffs to go through international legal channels.

Warren Friedman of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it is too early to discuss specifics of any financial assistance homeowners could get from the federal government. The CPSC sent the IRS a letter Monday informing them of their findings. The IRS could decide to allow homeowners to declare a casualty loss on returns.

Some states, including Louisiana, are using federal Community Development Block Grant money to help homeowners.


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