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CPSC can't link tainted drywall to American manufacturers

Consumer Reports News: April 22, 2011 11:20 AM

The drywall saga continues: A Consumer Product Safety Commission report says some products believed to be made in the USA have the same issues as tainted Chinese drywall. Trouble is, the agency can't confirm it's really American-made, according to a report from the non-profit investigative journalism enterprise ProPublica.

ProPublica's story quoted a CPSC report that said drywall in five of 11 homes had issues similar to tainted Chinese drywall, which releases enough sulfur gas to cause respiratory problems and corrode wiring. But the CPSC report said further extensive investigation and detailed documentation would be required to link the drywall to an American manufacturer. Indeed, uncertainty over the drywall's origin, along with resource constraints and the limited number of homes affected, have kept the CPSC from following up initial tests in four other homes, according to the agency report.

But some are fuming over the CPSC's decision. ProPublica reports that the company that tested the homes for the CPSC recommended additional tests on the four homes. Jack Frost (yes, that's his real name), a biochemist whose company has tested drywall in nearly 3,000 homes, said the CPSC's decision not to authorize the chamber tests--considered the most reliable way to measure the sulfur gas tainted drywall emits—and determine for sure where the drywall came from was "nuts."

"How they have all these brilliant scientists and do a report like this is just incomprehensible to me," Frost said.

One of those four homeowners, Brenda Brincku, of Alva, Florida, told ProPublica the CPSC told her they couldn't afford to do chamber tests on her home because they were out of funding. The family told ProPublica the house was built with two brands of U.S.-made drywall and that tests the family commissioned show it is emiting high levels of sulfur gas. They've also filed suit against one of the manufacturers, Charlotte-based National Gypsum, which told ProPublica its tests showed the drywall isn't emiting sulfur gas.

Pamela Gilbert, an attorney and former CPSC executive director now representing some of the nearly 100 homeowners suing National Gypsum, told ProPublica she was disappointed that the American-made drywall study was ending. "It's a shame, because so many resources have been spent on Chinese drywall problems and the CPSC was unable to move forward with that because the perpetrators were in China and unreachable. Here you have a situation where there is a problem and American companies could be pursued by CPSC, but they have chosen to cut the investigation short."

For more information, follow ProPublica's drywall coverage on its website or visit the CPSC's Drywall Information Center.

Gian Trotta

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