Chinese Drywall Not Radioactive, CPSC Says

Testing on Chinese drywall for the presence of radioactive phosphogypsum is complete. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), a radiation risk was not found in 21 samples of Chinese drywall that were tested.

Earlier this summer, we reported that a Los Angeles Times investigation had found that Chinese drywall manufacturers regularly use phosphogypsum – a byproduct of fertilizer production – in their wallboard. Though phosphogypsum has been banned from use in construction in the U.S. since the 1980s because of its radioactive properties, several Chinese drywall manufacturers told the Times that they had shipped wallboard made with phosphogypsum to the U.S. in 2006. The LA Times report raised fears that Chinese drywall could be radioactive.

The reports of phosphogypsum use by Chinese drywall manufacturers prompted the CPSC to order radiation testing. Those tests were conducted by the Florida Department of Health Radiation Laboratory and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory. Of the 21 samples tested, 17 were obtained by the CPSC from manufacturers and suppliers in multiple states, and four were obtained by the Florida health department from homes exhibiting copper corrosion, odors and occupant complaints.

According to a CPSC statement, an evaluation of those tests by a federal and state technical team of scientists from CPSC, EPA, the Florida Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and Virginia Department of Health has concluded that the samples had no elevated levels of radioactivity. The levels were comparable to “background” levels found in soil, brick and concrete, the CPSC said.

That’s some good news for people living with Chinese drywall. But as anyone who visits this blog regularly knows, there are still many questions about Chinese drywall left to be answered. Consumers in 24 states have filed a total of 1046 Chinese drywall complaints with the CPSC. Gases emitted from the 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, similar to fireworks or rotten eggs, that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode.

Earlier this summer, other tests conducted by the EPA found that Chinese-manufactured drywall contained elevated levels of strontium sulfide, as well as the presence of several organic compounds associated with the production of acrylic paint that were not present in samples of U.S.-made drywall. The Florida health department is expected to release further test results that could shed more light on potential health hazards posed by the drywall in September. The EPA and other government agencies are also conducting additional health testing, and those results should also be available soon.

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