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Government approves screening test for Chinese drywall
Scripps Howard News Service


November 23, 2009
Monday PM

WASHINGTON - The federal agency overseeing the investigation into Chinese drywall has approved a screening test for homes with potentially tainted drywall, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Shortly after the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report Monday detailing its investigation, Sen. Nelson said that he had spoken with the agency's chair, Inez Tenenbaum

"One positive step is that the CPSC says an individual homeowner screening test has been approved to determine corrosion," Nelson said, adding that the screening test may be the precursor to a significant tax break.

A CPSC spokesman disagreed with Nelson, saying that the agency has not yet decided on a process for pinpointing homes with problematic drywall.

The contradictory information comes as a federal investigation of Chinese drywall found a "strong association" between the material and rotten egg-smelling gas, but the report released Monday provided few answers for homeowners.

The findings from a Consumer Product Safety Commission-sponsored investigation of 51 homes leave unanswered many questions about how imported drywall is believed to have sickened thousands -- and what the recourse is for homeowners.

It didn't connect the questionable drywall to the bloody noses and breathing problems associated with it. It didn't say why the questionable drywall is releasing higher levels of the rotten egg smelling gas. It didn't provide a checklist for people to fix their homes. And it didn't provide any more for affected homeowners to pay for repairs.

"I'm still disappointed the government is taking too long to establish whether there's a link between drywall, corrosion and health problems," said Nelson, who has aggressively advocated for affected homeowners. "What's needed now is a timeline to let homeowners know when they'll get more specifics from the government."

The report comes as over 2,000 people in 32 states have complained to federal authorities that tainted drywall has caused bloody noses, breathing problems or corroded metal products in their homes. The drywall in question is estimated to have been used in 60,000 to 100,000 homes between 2004 to 2006, though federal authorities said Monday that they are aren't sure how many homes actually contain the questionable drywall.

"The study of 51 homes found a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall, and corrosion in those homes," according to the report, which also included two studies of metal corrosion.

Scott Wolfson, a CPSC spokesman, said the report would be used to help develop a government plan for homeowners to fix their homes. But he declined to say when his agency, which is overseeing the drywall investigation, would release that plan.

The report also said that hydrogen sulfide gas -- which smells like rotten eggs -- was not found to be the sole cause of the health problems, but that the elevated hydrogen sulfide levels could, nonetheless, be contributing to the problems.

In both groups of homes studied, researchers also found elevated levels of formaldehyde -- which can cause health problems -- but not enough to be the sole cause of the illnesses.

The Formaldehyde Council objected to any connection being made between its product and health or corrosion problems. "Formaldehyde is not associated with corrosion and is not a component of drywall," council executive director Betsy Natz said Monday in a statement. "It is irresponsible to speculate that formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide can act in a synergistic or additive manner to cause irritant effects in human beings at the low levels found in the CPSC study."

Some hoped that Monday's report would trigger federal money to help pay for repairs. The Internal Revenue Service has been considering whether or not to give affected homeowners a major tax break -- formally called a casualty loss -- and was awaiting word from the CPSC on the severity of the problem.

Instead, the CPSC has asked the IRS to make a decision, Wolfson said Monday. A spokesman for the IRS had no comment.

Those who think they may have tainted drywall are encouraged to contact the CPSC by calling 1-800-638-2772. They are also encouraged to get plenty of fresh air.

To read the reports or for more information, visit



E-mail Isaac Wolf at wolfi(at)
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