Slow Pace of Chinese Drywall Probe Frustrates Senator

U.S Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, expressed frustration yesterday that preliminary results from Chinese drywall testing have failed to answer some pressing questions. According to The Miami Herald, Sen. Nelson was angered not only by the lack of answers, but by the slow pace of the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Chinese drywall investigation.

The CPSC has received about 1,897 reports from residents in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico concerning 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.

The drywall problems have forced many people out of their homes, and some families are dealing with the heavy financial burden of paying both rent and mortgage payments. Those unable to afford additional rent have no choice but to stay in their smelly – and possibly hazardous – homes. Meanwhile, most experts are cautioning homeowners not to repair Chinese drywall homes until a remediation protocol is established. The results of the federal drywall investigation will play a large role in developing such a protocol.

According to a press statement released by the CPSC yesterday, initial results of three studies that compared Chinese and domestic wallboard revealed that samples from China emit volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate, and contain higher levels of sulfur and strontium, than the American-made product. However, the CPSC still could not say if there was a direct link between the Chinese drywall and the health problems homeowners are reporting. Officials also could not say if fumes from the Chinese drywall were responsible for corrosion seen in homes built with the material.

According to The Miami Herald, it will be months before the CPSC will be able to reach conclusions on those issues. More test results on possible health effects will be released next month, but the agency won’t know if corrosion of wire and metals is related to drywall until next summer.

At a briefing with members of Congress yesterday, Sen. Nelson asked CPSC staffers whether “it was typical that a study would take this long.” “If you hear impatience in my voice, you are an accurate judge,” Nelson said. “What I am reflecting is people’s concerns, their financial devastation, health effects.”

The CPSC said that the Chinese drywall probe is the largest in its history, and has so far cost $3.5 million. The CPSC investigation is being aided by other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Florida Department of Health.

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