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SANDUSKY, OH – Residential/Commercial Construction

June 15, 2009

EPA: Chinese Drywall Has High Levels of Chemicals

Wednesday 20 May 2009

by: Nirvi Shah  |  Visit article original @ The Miami Herald

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Mary Ann Schultheis suffered burning eyes, headaches and fatigue since moving into her new house in South Florida. (Photo: AP)

Drywall made in China has high levels of chemicals not found in domestic drywall, but officials have yet to conclude that the differences have led to health problems for thousands of homeowners.

Drywall imported from China used in newer homes in South Florida and other parts of the country contains sulfur, strontium and other substances that are either nonexistent or found in much lower levels in U.S.-made plasterboard, according to Environmental Protection Agency test results released Tuesday.

The EPA conducted the tests at the behest of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who have received many complaints from homeowners about their homes smelling like rotten eggs, having health problems, corroding wires and appliances and blackening jewelry and other metals that they believe are linked to drywall imported from China.

The complaints stretch across 10 states and are primarily from people living in homes built from about 2004 to 2008.

The problems have triggered many individual and class-action lawsuits, including some on behalf of South Florida residents. Some builders have also sued Chinese drywall manufacturers for failing to control the quality of their product and failing to notify customers it was defective.

“We now know there are three things in there that aren’t in other drywall samples,” Nelson said in a statement Tuesday, after reviewing the EPA’s test results. ‘We’ve got the ‘hat’ and now we need the ‘why’ — and, how do we fix it?”

Millions of square feet of drywall were imported into the United States during the housing boom and following catastrophic hurricane seasons that washed away many homes. U.S. manufacturers could not meet the demand for the product. Some estimates say as many as 100,000 homes contain foreign drywall.

Earlier this year, Florida Department of Health tests showed results similar to the EPA’s conclusions: U.S.-made drywall contained strontium at much lower levels than foreign drywall, and the Chinese product had three sulfur compounds that could lead to an odor.

They said their results show a possible link between the sulfur compounds and corrosion of copper air conditioning coils.

As of Tuesday, the department had logged nearly 400 complaints about problems associated with drywall, including many from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

EPA tests on a Chinese drywall samples from Florida homes and U.S.-made drywall bought in New Jersey show that the imported material contained sulfur, unlike the domestic product. The foreign-made gypsum board also had strontium at 10 times the rate of U.S. drywall.

The material made abroad also had organic material associated with acrylic paint not found in U.S.-made plasterboard. Both products have varying amounts of iron.

But the EPA would not say their findings show a link between the experiences of homeowners and the drywall.

Nelson and Landrieu are scheduled to request more money Wednesday to continue the investigation of the imported product. On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee, on which Nelson sits, will hold a hearing on the issue.

Landrieu will testify, along with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a Florida homeowner affected by the drywall and a Louisiana home builder.

The EPA said it is still working on creating a standard for states to test air quality in homes with Chinese drywall and hopes to establish that by the end of June.

“These initial tests provide some answers for our impacted homeowners,” Landrieu said, “but also raise more questions.”

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