Product Liability

CPSC continues investigation of Chinese drywall

The June edition of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Safety Review says that the agency has received more than 265 reports from residents in 18 states and Washington D.C. from customers who believe their health and / or their homes have been negatively affected by toxic drywall imported from China. Most of the homes that contain the suspect drywall were built in 2006 and 2007 during an unprecedented construction rush. At that time, contractors and suppliers looked to China for a supply of fresh drywall, which began running scarce after the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.

540 million pounds of Chinese drywall entered the United States between 2004 and 2008, mostly in the southern coastal areas of the U.S., where it was most needed. Tests conducted earlier this week by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the Chinese drywall contained elevated amounts of strontium and low amounts of sulfur, neither of which are present in domestically produced wallboard. Researchers are studying the potential risks these substances pose to human health, but no clear links have yet been made.

According to a report in Popular Mechanics, Keith Baker, a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., noticed foul smells coming from the walls of his new home in March 2008. Shortly after that, he noticed that the copper pipes in his house were turning black, “as though someone threw soot on them.” Worse yet, Baler and his wife struggled with sinus problems, dizzy spells, and muscle aches.

Congress began holding hearings on the matter last week and a number of government agencies are currently investigating. The CPSC also recently announced the measures it was taking. “CPSC, together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is moving aggressively to use all available resources and expertise to fully investigate this serious matter and find solutions. We also are working with State and local authorities to coordinate our response.”

Additionally, CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord said that the agency will “soon be opening a CPSC office in Beijing to help improve the safety of consumer products we receive from China.”

Because of our increased trade with China, substandard and often dangerous imports have been finding their way to market shelves in the United States, recently at an alarming rate. If the CPSC can inspect and certify Chinese products before they ever enter the U.S. market, who knows how much time, money, aggravation, and even lives may be saved?