US. Consumer Product Safety Commission
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2011
Release #11-176CPSC Hotline: (800) 638-2772
CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908
HUD Media Contact: (202) 708-0685
CPSC and HUD Issue Updated Remediation Protocol for Homes with Problem DrywallWASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are issuing an updated remediation protocol for homes with problem drywall. A study conducted on behalf of CPSC by Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, finds no evidence of a safety hazard to home electrical systems. Sandia simulated long-term exposure of wiring and other electrical components to hydrogen sulfide gas, which is associated with problem drywall.Based on this study, CPSC and HUD staff, representing the Interagency Task Force on Problem Drywall, are no longer recommending the removal of all electrical wiring in homes with problem drywall. This change in the government's protocol may reduce the cost of remediation for many homes.After simulating more than 40 years of corrosive conditions that could exist in problem drywall homes, Sandia staff did not observe any acute or long-term electrical safety events, such as smoking or fire. Corrosion and blackening of the exposed electrical components did occur and was observed to be consistent with the characteristic corrosion reported to CPSC by thousands of consumers. Based on this study, it is the belief of the staffs of CPSC, HUD and Sandia that long-term exposure of wiring and other electrical components to hydrogen sulfide gases does not indicate a safety hazard to a home's electrical systems.With these changes, the remediation guidance for homes with problem drywall calls for the replacement of all:
- problem drywall;
- fire safety alarm devices, including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms;
- electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers; and
- gas service piping and fire suppression sprinkler systems.
CPSC and HUD staffs are also issuing an updated identification guidance, which broadens the range of installation years of affected homes to include homes where drywall was installed as late as 2009. Importantly, the drywall installed in 2009 had been previously imported during the years 2006-2007 and does not represent any new importation of problem drywall.The staffs of CPSC and HUD believe that following the updated identification and remediation protocols will enable homeowners to correctly identify homes containing problem drywall and comprehensively remediate those homes to address any potential health and safety issues associated with the problem drywall. CPSC is in the final stages of completing its scientific investigation into problem drywall. For additional findings from the Interagency Drywall Task Force's investigation, visit www.DrywallResponse.gov The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction.
The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054. To join a CPSC e-mail subscription list, please go to https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx. Consumers can obtain recall and general safety information by logging on to CPSC's Web site at www.cpsc.gov HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov CHINESE DRYWALLCPSC has received about 3,810 reports from residents in 42 States, 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. State and local authorities have also received similar reports.electrical fixtures, appliances, plumbing and air conditioner coils.
Homeowners report corrosion or blackening of metal in or on Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.
Defective Imported Drywall: Dont Get Nailed by Bogus Tests and Treatments
Some U.S. homes built between 2003 and 2008 contain imported drywall, known in the press as Chinese drywall. Some consumers who live in these homes have reported problems, including a strong sulfur smell, like rotten eggs; health issues, like irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough and headaches; and premature corrosion or deterioration of certain metal components in their homes, like air conditioner coils and wiring behind electrical outlets and inside electrical panel boxes.The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the lead federal agency investigating damage to homes blamed on imported drywall. The effort to identify the causes of the damage also involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nations consumer protection agency, and state law enforcement and health authorities are investigating the issue, as well.The Federal Interagency Task Force has performed significant testing of drywall and homes, and found a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall, and corrosion in those homes.The FTC says homeowners should be on the alert for anyone trying to sell test kits, inspections, and quick fixes for tainted drywall. The Federal Interagency Task Force is studying testing and remediation protocols for affected homes, but no federally-approved testing kits or remediation methods currently exist.You can learn more about the federal governments drywall investigation, and sign up for email alerts, at www.drywallresponse.gov. To file a complaint, visit the CPSC at www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/drywall.aspx, call toll-free, 1-800-638-2772 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.The InvestigationOur investigation is proceeding simultaneously on three tracks:
1. evaluation of the relationship between the drywall and the reported health symptoms;
2. evaluation of the relationship between the drywall and electrical and fire safety issues in the home; and
3. the tracing of the origin and distribution of the drywall.
This investigation includes field work focusing on a number of issues. The staff is contacting some consumers to discuss their particular drywall issues and exploring their experiences in more detail. Some of these inquiries will be in person and some will be by telephone. We have field investigators permanently stationed in the affected States (with the exception of Wyoming) and we are shifting additional staff to those areas to assist in the investigation. Staff members are collecting samples of various drywall and degraded electrical components, and working to identify the links from foreign manufacturers to the U.S. consumers. One challenge has been figuring out how much problem drywall there is in any house, given that it is already installed, likely painted and may not be clearly marked. The drywall could fill the home or be just a few sheets.
The most frequently reported symptoms are irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks. Since many consumers report that their symptoms lessen or go away when they are away from their home, but return upon re-entry, it appears that these symptoms are short-term and related to something within the home. Some of these symptoms are similar to colds, allergies or reactions to other pollutants sometimes found in homes. As such, it is important to carefully determine if the reported symptoms are related to the drywall and not any other environmental factors or pollutants in the home.We are aggressively investigating whether scientific evidence exists linking chemical emissions from the drywall to the reported health complaints. At this time, however, any such relationship or long-term health effects are unknown.We are undertaking a multi-tracked testing approach to assess the impact on human health. The data collected will form the basis for a health risk assessment.
- In-home air sampling (field) studies - Continuous, real-time measurements of the sulfur, acid and other gases, including the presence of freon byproducts. Measurements will take into account humid conditions as well as various times of day. Testing will be done over longer time periods because many symptoms have been reported to occur after hours of sleeping.
- Laboratory elemental characterization studies of domestic and imported drywall - Characterization of components of drywall and identification of any differences.
- Laboratory chamber studies of domestic and imported drywall - Chamber studies to separate and isolate chemical emissions from drywall as opposed to chemicals emitted from other home products (e.g., carpets, cleaners, paint, adhesives, beauty products).
Electrical and Fire Safety Investigation
Consumers have reported blackened and corroded metal in their homes. Particularly, consumers have reported failures of certain components such as: (1) premature failures of central air conditioning evaporator coils located indoors as part of the central air conditioning unit air handler; and (2) intermittent operation or failure of appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers, and electronic devices such as televisions and video game systems.To date, CPSC has not received any reports of fire, electric shock or fire pre-cursor incidents (such as discolored, overheated/burned out, or smoking components) related to problem drywall.Visual examination of electrical wiring within affected homes by CPSC staff showed varying levels of corrosion on the exposed portions of copper wires, in particular ground wires, since they are not insulated. The presence and extent of corrosion within a house, or even within a room, however, appeared inconsistent.We are investigating the electrical and fire safety issues in the home, including the corrosion of components such as fuel gas piping and fire safety devices, and any immediate or long-term fire and safety concerns. Particular areas of focus for this investigation include:
Electrical components including residential wiring, receptacles, switches, circuit breakers, panel boards, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).
Possible concerns with electrical components include:
- Deterioration of connections such as where a wire is connected to a receptacle or where a circuit breaker is installed in a panel board. A degraded connection could develop hot spots resulting in overheating and possibly fire.
- Erosion of copper conductors over time, reducing conductor crosssectional area and compromising its physical integrity. If the corrosion is progressively eating away at a wire, the wire would eventually lose its capacity to carry current and start to overheat or become physically weak and break.
- Damage to circuit traces or electronic components on printed circuit boards causing failure of protective devices like GFCIs, arc-fault circuit interrupters, and smoke alarms, which can present shock and fire hazards from the loss of protection provided by these devices.
- Gas service components including flexible connectors and copper piping. The concern is that potential gas leakage due to corrosive pitting of piping could present a fire or explosion hazard.
- Fire safety components including smoke alarms and fire sprinklers.
For smoke alarms, potential concerns include damage to electronic circuitry and degradation of the sensor. Either condition could result in an inoperable smoke alarm. For fire sprinklers that use metallic fusible elements, potential concerns are that corrosion may adversely affect activation temperatures. Failures of these devices can put consumers at risk.
The investigation into electrical and fire safety issues is a two-part engineering component test program:
(1) metallurgical analysis of various components collected from affected residences to characterize the type and extent of any damage; and
(2) exposure of new components to elevated levels of gases, identified in the drywall chamber studies, as part of an accelerated corrosion test program to determine long-term exposure safety implications.
A metallurgical analysis of the accelerated corrosion will enable comparison with the actual collected samples from homes.(This document was prepared by CPSC staff, has not been reviewed or approved by, and may not necessarily reflect the views of, the Commission.)Answer: Please see our most recent guidance (pdf) on identification of homes with corrosion from problem drywall. We are currently not aware of any definitive test to determine if a home has problem drywall. Nevertheless, you might consider contacting your homebuilder to ask about the materials used in construction.Consumers raising concerns about drywall have typically identified a "rotten egg" smell within their house, several health symptoms while in the home, and corrosion or blackening of certain metal items. Consumers have also reported frequent failures of copper piping in air conditioning units.The back-side of this drywall (not normally visible to the resident) is labeled as "MADE IN CHINA."
The smaller sample (slightly gray in color) was taken from drywall which was removed from the home and replaced with new wallboard (white in color).
The ground wire connected to the green screw is blackened and corroded.
This wire should be copper-colored.
Answer: We recommend four steps:
1. The most important issue is your health and safety. If you are suffering from the health symptoms described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your physician as soon as possible. If you experience any of the electrical or fire safety concerns described as common to the reports of exposure to problem drywall, please consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector as soon as possible.
2. You should contact your State and local authorities to report your concerns and get direction on any help or resources in your area.
3. You should also report your concerns to us using the form at www.SaferProducts.gov
4. You should also consider contacting your insurance company and homebuilder to report your concerns.
To date, the CPSC has received about 3,838 reports from residents in 42 States, 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 the presence of drywall produced in China. State and local authorities have also received similar reports. We received our first incident report from a consumer on December 22, 2008. The majority of the reports to the CPSC have come from consumers residing in the State of Florida while others have come from consumers in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.Common features of the reports submitted to the CPSC from homes believed to contain problem drywall have been:
- Consumers have reported a "rotten egg" smell within their homes.
- Consumers have reported health concerns such as irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks.
- Consumers have reported blackened and corroded metal components in their homes and the frequent replacement of components in air conditioning units.
Question: What are the health symptoms and risks?
Answer: The most frequently reported symptoms are irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks. Since many consumers report that their symptoms lessen or go away when they are away from their home, but return upon re-entry, it appears that these symptoms are short-term and related to something within the home.The staff of the CPSC and CDC agree that the levels of sulfur gases detected in the affected homes in the fifty-one home study were at concentrations below the known irritant levels in the available scientific literature; however, it is possible that the additive or synergistic effects of these and other compounds in the subject homes could potentially cause irritant effects to consumers.Question: What should I do if I have any of the symptoms described as common to exposure to problem drywall?Answer: Please consult your physician as soon as possible.Question: Should I hire an air quality tester or a firm to remove and replace the drywall?Answer: We cannot advise whether or not to take such steps. We are still investigating the problem.Please be cautious, however, of persons or businesses advertising testing and remediation services - there may be unqualified or dishonest individuals seeking to take advantage of consumers struggling to address this issue. You should consult your State and local authorities if you have any questions or concerns about contractors or testing companies promising solutions to these drywall matters.Question: What are the electrical or fire safety concerns and what I should I watch for in my house?Answer: Consumers have reported blackened and corroded metal in their homes. Particularly, consumers have reported failures of certain components such as: (1) premature failures of central air conditioning evaporator coils located indoors as part of the central air conditioning unit air handler; and (2) intermittent operation or failure of appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers, and electronic devices such as televisions and video game systems.Please see the FAQ below if you have questions about gas service.You should generally watch for the following potential electrical hazards in your home:Power outages - a circuit breaker which needs resetting frequently without any apparent cause; especially if a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) trips frequently. Arc-fault circuit interrupters are a special kind of circuit breaker that is designed to detect arcing conditions in the electrical wiring.Dim/flickering lights - lights dim often without any specific cause, such as the air conditioner or the refrigerator turning on.Arcs/sparks - bright flashes or showers of sparks anywhere in your electrical system.Sizzles/buzzes - unusual sounds from electrical system devices.Overheating - parts of your electrical system, such as switch plates, dimmer switches, receptacle outlet covers, cords and plugs may be warm as a normal consequence of their operation but should not be discolored from heat or painful to touch.Odors - pungent smells such as strong fumes from overheating plastic or electrical insulation materials.Electrical shocks - any shock, even a mild tingle.Multiple symptoms would be a stronger indication of problems.Question: What should I do if I suspect the corrosion has affected my gas service?Answer: If you suspect corrosion has affected your gas service, please consult your gas supplier immediately.However, if you suspect a gas leak in or outside your home:
- LEAVE the area IMMEDIATELY and tell others to leave too.
- DO NOT turn any lights on or off, smoke, or operate any vehicle or equipment that could cause sparks.
- DO NOT attempt to turn gas valves on or off.
- Immediately call your gas supplier from a neighbor's phone. Follow the gas supplier's instructions.
- If you cannot reach your gas supplier, call the fire department.
- Installation and service must be performed by a qualified installer, service agency or the gas supplier.
Question: What should I do if I experience any of the electrical or fire safety concerns common to exposure to problem drywall?
Answer: Please consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector, as soon as possible.Please see the FAQ above if you have questions about gas service.Question: Can you visit my home to test the air and to tell me if I have a problem with my drywall?Answer: During our investigation, a number of homes will be visited to conduct tests and gather samples, but we cannot visit every potential house and conduct a screening.Question: What builders used the drywall in question?Answer: We are still investigating the scope of the drywall problem. We are working to identify the links from foreign manufacturers to the U.S. consumers in consultation with the Chinese government and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.Question: Why doesn't the CPSC just recall the drywall?Answer: CPSC cannot order someone to conduct a recall without a trial. Our case on behalf of consumers will have to be driven by scientific proof linking the drywall and the health problems or the electrical and fire safety issues, which we are aggressively pursuing.Question: Why didn't the CPSC catch this problem drywall before it was installed in homes?Answer: CPSC does not have the legal authority to perform pre-market testing and approval of products. In addition, this is a unique situation given that drywall has not presented problems such as these in the past.Question: What has been the response of the Chinese government?Answer: CPSC is in contact with the Chinese government, which is cooperating with our investigation. The Chinese authorities have offered to arrange for a Chinese official to travel to the United States in support of our investigation.Question: When will we know the results of the investigation?Answer: Although we have urgently committed significant resources to this problem, gathering evidence and conducting the necessary tests will take time. It could be months before we can confidently address the scientific relationships between the problem drywall and the health and safety concerns raised by consumers. Be assured that, as our investigation progresses, we are committed to updating consumers regularly with as much information as possible.This document was prepared by CPSC staff, has not been reviewed or approved by, and may not necessarily reflect the views of, the Commission.)This bathroom lighting fixture is pitted and corroded.The copper coils on this air conditioner unit are blackened and corroded. This copper pipe is blackened.(This document was prepared by CPSC staff, has not been reviewed or approved by, and may not necessarily reflect the views of, the Commission.)
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