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Chinese drywall test gives homeowners no happiness

Nov. 23, 2009
Problem areas claimed from Chinese drywall include: copper wiring that has turned black, copper air conditioning coils and metal bathroom accessories that have corroded after exposure. / file photos


Drywall complaints from 32 states and Washington, D.C.

Percent of the complaints, or 1,425, that come from Florida.

$3.5 million
Amount the Consumer Product Safety Commission has spent on testing so far

Estimated number of U.S. homes reportedly having tainted drywall. The CPSC claims that this estimate is too high and is asking governors and other state agencies to help provide information.


Plug in: Read the latest on Chinese drywall, view lawsuit documents and connect with other readers

1:10 A.M. — The only concrete result from the latest round of testing in a $3.5 million federal investigation into defective Chinese drywall is that the drywall is linked to corrosion damage in homes.

That link has been a given for the state health department, other independent laboratories, toxicologists and homeowners for months.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which heads an interagency federal-state task force seeking answers to the drywall problem, failed Monday to come up with the answer homeowners are so desperate to hear: That the drywall is linked to health symptoms they say they are suffering.

Meanwhile, two other “preliminary” studies — an electrical component corrosion study and a fire safety corrosion study — were inconclusive.

More testing is needed, said Scott Wolfson, commission spokesman.

Richard Kampf, a Cape Coral homeowner who has the drywall, doesn’t want to wait any more.

He’s happy the link to corrosion was confirmed, but disappointed that the agency didn’t outline the next steps to give homeowners relief — besides more testing.

“They’re going to study us to death,” he said.

If the task force doesn’t come up with something soon to indicate what kind of federal aid they can provide, “you are going to see a significant number of people, including the Kampfs, putting the key in the door and leaving,” he said.

That would cause another wave of foreclosures in an already flooded market, he said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, also expressed frustration after speaking with commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum and hearing she could not give a date when the testing would be complete.

“I am very disappointed with the whole process, and especially that the CDC and EPA can’t say whether drywall is harmful to people’s health,” Nelson said.

“One positive step is that the CPSC says an individual homeowner screening test has been approved to determine corrosion, which could allow an IRS casualty loss deduction on a homeowner’s income tax return,” he said.

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Five months of testing in 51 homes showed “a strong association” between levels of hydrogen sulfide and corrosion of metals in the homes, said Jack McCarthy, president of Environmental Health and Engineering, which conducted the study for the commission.

The results say that hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde in the homes are at concentrations below irritant levels, but if they interact together along with other compounds in the homes, that could possibly cause some irritation for homeowners, Wolfson said.

Again, more testing is needed, he said.

Now that the link to corrosion is confirmed, the task force will form another task force within its ranks to come up with a testing protocol and then the guidelines for fixing the drywall. But that is months away, Wolfson said.

Florida House Democratic leader Franklin Sands issued a forceful statement after the release of the results, calling on the state legislature to “consider taking urgent action” in the next legislative session.

“The current situation is unacceptable and must be urgently remedied. The catastrophe involves builders and contractors unwilling or unable to remediate the damage. Homeowners’ insurance companies are denying coverage or, in some cases, dropping policies after people report the existence of defective drywall.”

He wants the Legislature to coordinate a response to help residents embroiled in the drywall crisis.

Kampf said an immediate remedy would be for Gov. Charlie Crist to declare a disaster in the drywall crisis to the commission, which would make state residents eligible for federal funds, he said.

“They could house people in trailers or other homes that have been foreclosed on,” he said.

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