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Feds issue final word on tainted drywall

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), in its final report on tainted drywall, has issued a set of updated recommendations that may lower the cost of remediation for some homeowners.

The updated remediation guidance is based on studies just completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on potential long term corrosion effects of problem drywall on gas piping, fire sprinkler heads, and smoke alarms. 

The key finding is that none of the studies performed at NIST found corrosion associated with problem drywall that provided evidence of a substantial product safety hazard. Some smoke alarms and fire sprinkler heads showed small changes in performance due to accelerated corrosion, but these changes were generally within accepted industry standards, the report said. 

As a result, the CPSC and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) no longer recommend the removal of gas service piping or the replacement of glass bulb fire sprinkler heads in homes with problem drywall. This change may reduce the cost of remediation for many homes. However, both agencies recommend that these devices be inspected and tested to make sure they’re working properly. 

Other final guidance issued from the agencies call for the replacement of all  problem drywall; carbon monoxide (CO) alarms; electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers, but not necessarily wiring; and fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.

CPSC’s investigation into problem drywall, much of it imported fro China, began in early 2009. The inter-agency effort involved HUD, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as members of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Problem Drywall.

As part of the investigation, the CPSC requested that the CDC consider undertaking a comprehensive study of any possible long-term health effects. The agency also contracted with several highly-respected technical organizations, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Environmental Health & Engineering Inc. (EH&E), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), NIST, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to study possible health and safety issues connected to imported Chinese drywall.

In February 2011, CDC indicated that the best scientific evidence available at that time did not support undertaking a long-term health study. Another study that was conducted by the USGS found no evidence of microbiological activity or a microbiological source of sulfur-gas emissions from gypsum rock or problem drywall, including samples taken from affected homes. These results were just released on Sept. 15. 

To date, CPSC has received 3,905 reports from residents of 42 states and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes are related to problem drywall. CPSC believes there may be as many as 6,300 U.S. homes with problem drywall.