Lawmakers Seek Chinese Drywall Fire Hazard Declaration

Several lawmakers have asked the federal government to declare Chinese drywall a fire hazard. In separate letters to U.S. Fire Administrator Kevin Cochran, U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon and Senator Mary Landrieu, both Louisiana Democrats, noted that the corrosion of electrical wiring caused by Chinese drywall fumes poses such a hazard. Landrieu’s letter was signed by five other Senators.

Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (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.

Earlier this month, the CPSC issued an alert to fire safety professionals nationwide asking to be notified of any fires that could be related to the tainted wallboard. In the alert, the agency said it is not aware of any corroborated fire incidents that may be linked to Chinese drywall. But because the fumes from the drywall are causing electrical wiring to corrode, there are fears that such incidents could occur.

In letters sent out Thursday, Melancon, Landrieu and other Senators asked that federal fire officials expand and continue research on Chinese drywall fire hazards and provide guidance for homeowners, outlining steps they can take to make their homes safer.

In his letter, Melancon wrote: “The [CPSC] has established a ‘strong association’ between chemicals emitted by toxic drywall and corrosion of copper wiring in homes. In addition to the fire hazards associated with damaged electrical wiring, corrosion can also lead to the deterioration of smoke alarm systems and fire sprinklers – compounding the risk of damage and injury from fire.”

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