Chinese Drywall Health Concerns Mount Over Death Reports

Could Chinese drywall be killing people? Well, it seems that nine people living in homes with Chinese drywall have died from various ailments, and now several lawmaker are demanding answers.

According to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) said death reports were among the Chinese drywall complaints it has received, however it has not found direct scientific evidence to support a link between the deaths and the drywall. The death reports were first uncovered by the Scripps Howard News Service, which filed a freedom of information request to get copies of 2,700 drywall complaints filed with the agency, the Times-Picayune said.

The deaths were primarily among elderly and young people with long-standing medical problems. One case involved the 2008 death of a 9-year-old boy from an asthma attack. His family’s St. Rose Louisiana home had been renovated with Chinese drywall in 2006, and his symptoms reportedly worsened after the renovation.

In another report, an elderly female became ill with lung condition and died. It was later confirmed that Chinese drywall was present in the New Orleans home were she had lived. Other reports included deaths that were the result of heart attacks, and some victims developed cancer.

Exactly how dangerous Chinese drywall fumes are has yet to be determined, but the CPSC maintains that there is no evidence that the deaths uncovered by Scripps Howard have anything to do with the tainted wallboard. Dr. Barbara Manis of the Rockville, Md.-based Building Health Sciences, told Scripps Howard that because toxic drywall acts as an irritant, it could trigger deadly asthma attacks. However, she said here is no evidence that drywall would contribute to heart attacks. Also, it’s unlikely that the drywall would cause cancer, which would take years or decades to develop, Manis told Scripps Howard.

Still, the very idea that Chinese drywall might have caused some deaths has several lawmakers demanding investigations. According to the Times-Picayune, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has written to the CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeking such a probe.

“There has been significant progress in providing homeowners with steps to identify the presence of toxic drywall, and your investigations have found convincing evidence that the drywall releases elevated levels of toxins that can cause a number of problems within homes,” Vitter stated in letters to the two agencies. “Still, however, many questions remain unanswered about health impacts.”

Likewise, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also wants answers. According to Scripps-Howard, Nelson said he spoke with officials from the CPSC asking them to examine reports from homeowners concerned that deaths of family members were associated with toxic material.

Since late 2008, the CPSC has received about 3,000 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

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