Thursday, July 09, 2009

Is your drywall emitting toxic radioactive gases? No, really …

This Consumer Report blog article is the first I’ve heard of this one. Apparently the reports started in 2007, with customers learning of corrosive gases emitted from drywall manufactured in China. Consumer Reports wrote of this in March 2009, and again today (emphases mine) ….

Homeowners seek remedy as probe of Chinese drywall continues: Consumer Reports on Safety

As if the problems with Chinese drywall weren't bad enough, two fires are being investigated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office to see if toxic drywall contributed to the blazes. It's not too far-fetched given the reports of corroded electrical wiring, air conditioner coils, and other appliances and electronics degraded by the drywall.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that some experts believe the problematic drywall was made using a radioactive phosphorus substance—phosphogypsum—that is banned for construction use in the U.S. but has been used by Chinese manufacturers for almost a decade.

Copies of Chinese customs reports obtained by The Times indicate that drywall made with phosphogypsum was shipped to the U.S. in 2006 by at least four Chinese-based manufacturers and trading firms….

… Also this week, the CPSC responded to four senators who last month asked the agency to "expedite its investigation and testing" of the drywall. In its status report, the CPSC said it was working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies to "coordinate a federal action plan." This involves collecting samples of drywall and degraded electrical components, taking air samples in affected homes, and formulating health advice for residents.

… The CPSC says it has received more than 608 incident reports from 21 states and the District of Columbia with most coming from Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia.

In an earlier analysis comparing some samples of imported drywall with its American-made counterpart, the EPA discovered:

  • Sulfur was detected in all of the Chinese drywall samples, but in none of the four U.S.-manufactured drywall samples.
  • Significant levels of strontium were detected in the Chinese drywall samples. Strontium was also detected in the U.S.-made samples, but at much lower levels.
  • Two organic compounds associated with acrylic paints were found in the Chinese drywall samples, but not in the U.S.-made samples.

… Unfortunately, it seems the only sure way to rid a home of problems is to tear out the Chinese drywall and replace it—a very expensive and involved process.

Our Take: While the finger pointing as well as the CPSC, CDC and EPA investigations continue, affected consumers should be extra vigilant in monitoring potential health effects as well as electrical safety hazards that might occur from yet another tainted product from China.

Thus far the problems seem localized to 3 states, but we’ll all need to keep an eye on this one.

We plan to cut our own trees and hew the wood for our future home remodeling projects.

On the bright side, Obama is resurrecting the government Bush wrecked. In a couple of years we might be almost back where we were in the year 2000.

See also:

Update 7/11/09: It's gone national. The US Consumer Protection agency has a drywall page. This is one of the agencies Obama has been raising from the dead. The CPSC PDF report from July 2009 has a lot of details. They're focusing on a particular mine in China, the problems go back to pre-2006. A lot of American construction may be affected.

1 comment:

CDShephard said...

The defective Chinese drywall debacle has been making news for months now, with homeowners plagued by sulfur fumes that smell like “rotten eggs” and cause air conditioning coils to corrode. Residents complain of sinus and respiratory ailments, eye and skin irritation, persistent runny or bloody noses, headaches, and asthma. Some situations were so severe that residents had to vacate their homes. In some cases, victims have been harassed by builders into signing unfair, one-side remediation agreements. The issues surrounding defective Chinese drywall are confusing and worrisome. Here is a good blog that has been providing emerging and valuable information on the problems: