Offering a conclusion that thousands of homeowners have already come to in the past year, the federal government said today that it has found a “strong association” between sulfur emissions from defective drywall and corrosion of pipes, wires and other metal components in homes.
The finding from a study of 51 homes paves the way for the next phase in the investigation: creating protocols for identifying and remediating defective drywall.
Today’s results are the second that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other federal agencies have released regarding the defective building material. The first report, on an investigation of only 10 homes, was released last month and offered evidence that the drywall was giving off elevated levels of sulfuric compounds, particularly hydrogen sulfide. However, it stopped short of linking the drywall to either the corrosion or health problems being reported by homeowners.
The CPSC has collected 2,091 complaints of defective drywall problems from homeowners in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico—making this one of the largest consumer product safety investigations in its history.
The CPSC—which is the lead agency on the issue—has spent $3.5 million and engaged 15 percent of its staff to work on the defective drywall problem, spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
It is working with a number of other agencies to create the Interagency Drywall Task Force, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
While the government was able to find a correlation between the drywall and corrosion, it stopped short of making a link between the drywall and health problems. Preliminary findings said that hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde in homes were both below irritant levels, but that “additive or synergistic effects” of the “sulfide, plus formaldehyde, plus other components,” could cause health effects.
“Ongoing studies will examine health and safety effects, but we are now ready to get to work fixing this problem,” CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a statement.
The defective drywall issue was first brought to public attention about a year ago, mostly with problems with certain drywall imported from China, although some homeowners with American-made drywall have complained of similar symptoms. Most of the drywall appears to have been installed in homes sometime between 2000 and 2008.
The CPSC has sent a letter with the most recent finding to the Internal Revenue Service so it can make a determination about possible casualty loss assessments.
By Allison Ross, The Palm Beach Post, Fla. November 24, 2009