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Chinese Drywall

HUD and CPSC Announce Results of Drywall Testing – May 27th, 2011

“Chinese Drywall”

After the hurricane Katrina there was huge demand for drywall. Drywall manufactured in China was shipped into the United States to meet the demand.

The drywall was manufactured in China and fly ash was used in the making of the sheetrock portion of the drywall. Fly ash is the very fine ash material produced when soft coal is burned at high temperatures such as in an electrical power plant boiler.

The fly ash contains sulfur compounds. The presence of high relative humidity accelerates the out gassing of sulfur compounds into the air stream where the drywall is present. These sulfur gases have a foul odor which is offensive to occupants.

Sulfur compounds attack copper such as electrical wires and water lines.

In a statement released on Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the results of joint-testing efforts on problem drywall. Over the last few years, CPSC received over 3,500 reports from people who believe problem drywall is responsible for either health or home maintenance problems. Complaints included various health issues that only occurred when in the home, a “rotten egg” smell in the house, and the corrosion of some metal objects (pipes and wiring, in particular).

Most of the homes in question were built between 2006 and 2007, though problem drywall has been found in homes built as late as 2009. HUD and CPSC worked together to test the suspected problem drywall, simulating 40 years of the conditions expected to occur in homes with problem drywall.

Though no significant safety hazard was found, CPSC and HUD are still recommending the following actions: – removal and replacement of problem drywall; – removal and replacement of both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors;- replacement of electrical switches and circuit breakers; and,- replacement of piping that delivers either gas or water for sprinkler systems. HUD and CPSC have released an updated Identification and Remediation Guide that takes into account their latest findings. The CPSC is still completing its investigation into problem drywall and hopes to make more information available soon.

How do I determine if I have Chinese Drywall?

Consumers raising concerns about drywall have typically identified a “rotten egg” smell within their house, several health symptoms while in the home, and corrosion or blackening of certain metal items. Consumers have also reported frequent failures of copper piping in air conditioning units.

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The back-side of this drywall (not normally visible to the resident) is labeled as “MADE IN CHINA.”

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 The smaller sample (slightly gray in color) was taken from drywall which was removed

from the home and replaced with new wallboard (white in color).

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 The ground wire connected to the green screw is blackened and corroded.

This wire should be copper-colored.

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This bathroom lighting fixture is pitted and corroded.

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The copper coils on this air conditioner unit are blackened and corroded.

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This copper pipe is blackened.

GUIDANCE ON REPAIRING HOMES WITH PROBLEM DRYWALL

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today issued interim remediation guidance to help homeowners struggling to rid their properties of problem drywall linked to corrosion of metal in their homes such as electrical components.

Earlier this year, HUD and CPSC issued a protocol to help identify problem drywall in the home. Today’s interim remediation guidance is being released in recognition that many homeowners want to begin remediating their homes and offers a next step to homeowners whose homes have been determined to have problem drywall.

“This guidance, based on the CPSC’s ongoing scientific research, is critical to ensuring that homeowners and contractors have confidence that they are making the appropriate repairs to rid their homes of problem drywall,” said Jon Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. “The remediation guidance issued today is the latest step in an ongoing process that the Intergovernmental Task Force on Problem Drywall has undertaken to address this problem directly. We will continue to work with our Congressional, State and local partners as they seek policy solutions based on our guidance and the CPSC’s scientific findings.”

Based on scientific study of the problem to date, HUD and CPSC recommend consumers remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Taking these steps should help eliminate both the source of the problem drywall and corrosion-damaged components that might cause a safety problem in the home. To view a full text of the remediation guidance, visit the federal Drywall Information Center website.

“Our investigations now show a clear path forward,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “We have shared with affected families that hydrogen sulfide is causing the corrosion. Based on the scientific work to date, removing the problem drywall is the best solution currently available to homeowners. Our scientific investigation now provides a strong foundation for Congress as they consider their policy options and explore relief for affected homeowners.”
This interim remediation protocol is being released before all ongoing scientific studies on problem drywall are completed so that homeowners can begin remediating their homes. CPSC will continue to release its scientific studies as they are completed.

Completed studies show a connection between certain Chinese drywall and corrosion in homes. CPSC is continuing to look at long term health and safety implications.

CPSC is releasing a staff report on preliminary data from a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that measured chemical emissions from samples of drywall obtained as part of the federal investigation for CPSC.

The top ten reactive sulfur-emitting drywall samples were all produced in China. Certain Chinese samples had emission rates of hydrogen sulfide 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall samples. The patterns of reactive sulfur compounds emitted from drywall samples show a clear distinction between the certain Chinese drywall samples manufactured in 2005/2006 and non-Chinese drywall samples. Some Chinese drywall samples were similar to non-Chinese samples. Finally, several Chinese samples manufactured in 2009 demonstrate a marked decrease in sulfur emissions as compared to the 2005/2006 Chinese samples.

CPSC is also releasing a study by its contractor, Environmental Health Engineering Inc., that tested whether sulfur-reducing bacteria are present in Chinese drywall. Eight out of ten drywall samples tested showed no bacterial growth including Chinese samples that emitted high levels of hydrogen sulfide in the LBNL study. One sample of Chinese drywall and one sample of U.S. drywall showed very low levels of sulfur-reducing bacterial growth.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers to exercise caution in hiring contractors who claim to be experts in testing for and removing problem drywall. In a December 2009 Consumer Alert, the FTC recommends that homeowners confirm a contractor’s references, qualifications and background before agreeing to hire them.

Also in December, HUD announced to cities, counties and states that the funds they receive from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program may be a resource to help local communities combat the problem drywall. These Block Grant funds are given to communities which decide how to spend them, within the requirements of the law that set up the grant program. Homeowners should contact their city or county to see if they have programs that can help.
In addition, HUD has encouraged its FHA mortgage lenders nationwide to consider extending temporary relief to allow families experiencing problems paying their mortgages because of problem drywall, to allow the homeowner time to repair their homes. Families with FHA-insured loans should contact their mortgage lenders directly. HUD also is encouraging non-FHA lenders to give affected families the same consideration.

To date, the Intergovernmental Task Force on Problem Drywall, which includes CPSC, HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has released the following information on problem drywall:

  • August 2009 – Testing conducted by federal and state agency radiation laboratories, which found no radiation safety risk to families in homes built with drywall.
  • October 2009 – CPSC investigated every 2009 import with a possible connection to imported Chinese drywall and confirmed that no new gypsum drywall was imported from the beginning of 2009. CPSC staff set up mechanisms to detect any possible future imports and has continued to investigate any and all suspected drywall imports. CPSC sent notices to the warehouses where any remaining Chinese drywall is stored informing them of CPSC’s ongoing investigation and informing them that the warehouses should notify CPSC if they sell, transport, or dispose of any drywall from their inventory.
  • October 2009 – Initial results on three studies of Chinese and non-Chinese drywall:
    • Elemental and chemical tests on drywall found the presence of elemental sulfur in Chinese drywall but not in non-Chinese drywall. The tests also showed higher concentrations of strontium in Chinese drywall than in non-Chinese drywall.
    • Chamber studies showed that Chinese drywall emits volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate than U.S. made drywall. The study found that sulfur gases were either not present or were present in only limited or occasional concentrations inside the homes, and only when outdoor levels of sulfur compounds in the air were elevated.
  • November 2009 – Results of CPSC’s 51-home study which shows a strong association between homes with problem drywall, the levels of hydrogen sulfide in those homes and corrosion of metals in those homes. In addition, CPSC’s General Counsel provided guidance to Congress and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the possible applicability of the casualty loss provision in the Internal Revenue Code for affected homeowners.
  • January 2010 – Interim Identification Protocol, prepared by HUD and CPSC, to help homeowners identify if they have problem drywall.
  • April 2010 – Interim Remediation Protocol, prepared by HUD and CPSC, CPSC staff report on drywall emissions by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and EHE bacteria study.