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CPSC Head Updates Chinese Drywall Investigation

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Inez Tenenbaum, head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said yesterday that her agency is “pouring a record amount of money and manpower” into its Chinese drywall investigation.  Yesterday at a briefing for lawmakers in affected states, Tenenbaum also promised that the CPSC’s drywall probe would be vigorous.

Chinese drywall poured into the U.S. between 1999 and 2007 because of the high demand created by the housing boom. Imports accelerated when the rebuilding that followed Hurricane Charley in Florida in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005, created a drywall shortage. According to The Wall Street Journal, some 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall was imported to the U.S. during the housing boom. That means as many as 100,000 homes throughout the country could have been built with the material.

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 that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode.  Earlier this summer, tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (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.

At yesterday’s briefing, Tenenbaum said the CPSC had received d 1,192 incident reports about drywall from 24 states, including the District of Colombia.  The majority of those reports have come from Florida, followed by Louisiana and Virginia, the Miami Herald said.  Its internal drywall task force has conducted testing of 50 homes with Chinese drywall.  Tenenbaum said she hoped that initial results of air sampling and a health assessment would be released by the end of October, the Herald reported.

Tenenbaum  also said the  task force, which is working  with other federal and state agencies, had been in China last month as part of its investigation.  She said the task force met with Chinese government and industry officials, and collected samples and other information to aid their investigation.

According to a UPI report, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was critical of the CPSC’s efforts following Tenenbaum’s briefing.  He said the probe is moving too slowly.  “I asked how harmful is it, and they said, ‘We’ve got to wait till the end of our study,’” said Nelson. “But when are you going to have some definitive information?”

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