Chinese drywall causes breathing problems, stinks like rotten eggs, Feds say
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Drywall manufactured in China may cause breathing problems for residents of new homes that contain it and possibly electrical problems, too, an in-depth federal study shows.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the results of an indoor air study on 51 homes that found a “strong association” between the presence of the drywall and the hydrogen sulfide level in the homes, as well as the corrosion of metal in those homes. Hydrogen sulfide is a highly flammable gas known for its “rotten egg” smell.
Hydrogen sulfide can cause respiratory problems, especially in combination with the elevated levels of formaldehyde common in new homes. It is also an essential component in causing copper and silver sulfide corrosion that has led to problems with wiring, copper plumbing and air-conditioning coils in homes with Chinese drywall.
Earlier studies had found large amounts of elemental sulfur in the Chinese drywall. But it hasn’t yet been determined exactly how the hydrogen sulfide is being created in the homes with the drywall.
“Ongoing studies will examine health and safety effects, but we are now ready to get to work fixing this problem,” said CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum.
According to a commission news release, “CPSC is contacting governors of all states, all territories and the District of Columbia, to ensure that all homes with these problems have been reported to CPSC.”
Known owners of Chinese drywall inventories in the U.S. have told the commission they will no longer sell the product.
More than 2,000 homeowners have made formal complaints about problems with their new homes containing Chinese drywall. Most of those complaints have come from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia, where an unusually large number of new homes were built in recent years after hurricanes. High temperatures and high humidity can make the problems worse.
According to a report in The New York Times, it’s estimated 60,000 homes in the U.S. may have been built with Chinese drywall, although CPSC officials say not all Chinese drywall is tainted.
Homeowners who believe they may have problem drywall should immediately report to CPSC by calling 800-638-2772 or logging on to www.CPSC.gov. Commission officials advise concerned homeowners keep windows open as much as possible, keep the indoor temperature at the lowest comfortable setting, and avoid smoking indoors.
Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) has sponsored a federal bill that would prohibit insurers from canceling or changing coverage of homes because they contain Chinese drywall, but the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald reports its prospects for passage are dim because insurance is regulated at the state level.
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Information has an online Drywall Information Center that provides answers to commonly-asked questions about related issues.