Homeowners with problem drywall should remove all of it from their homes and replace all electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, two federal agencies are recommending.
Amid the ongoing controversy over odors and corrosion allegedly caused by drywall from Chinese manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have issued interim remediation guidance to help homeowners affected by problem drywall.
Earlier this year, HUD and CPSC issued a protocol to help identify problem drywall in the home. The recommendation for removal, issued April 2, was released “in recognition that many homeowners want to begin remediating their homes and offers a next step to homeowners whose homes have been determined to have problem drywall,” the agencies said in a statement.
“This guidance, based on the CPSC’s ongoing scientific research, is critical to ensuring that homeowners and contractors have confidence that they are making the appropriate repairs to rid their homes of problem drywall,” said Jon Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.
“The remediation guidance issued today is the latest step in an ongoing process that the Intergovernmental Task Force on Problem Drywall has undertaken to address this problem directly. We will continue to work with our Congressional, State and local partners as they seek policy solutions based on our guidance and the CPSC’s scientific findings.”
The agencies’ statement said: “Based on scientific study of the problem to date, HUD and CPSC recommend consumers remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Taking these steps should help eliminate both the source of the problem drywall and corrosion-damaged components that might cause a safety problem in the home.”
To view a full text of the remediation guidance, visit the Federal Drywall Information Center website (PDF).
“Our investigations now show a clear path forward,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “We have shared with affected families that hydrogen sulfide is causing the corrosion. Based on the scientific work to date, removing the problem drywall is the best solution currently available to homeowners. Our scientific investigation now provides a strong foundation for Congress as they consider their policy options and explore relief for affected homeowners.”
The agencies said they were releasing their recommendations “before all ongoing scientific studies on problem drywall are completed so that homeowners can begin remediating their homes.” Critics, including many homeowners in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast region, have accused the government of moving too slowly to address the drywall issue.
Completed studies show a connection between certain Chinese drywall and corrosion in homes. CPSC says it is “continuing to look at long-term health and safety implications.”
CPSC is releasing a staff report (PDF) on preliminary data from a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that measured chemical emissions from samples of drywall obtained as part of the federal investigation for CPSC.
The top 10 reactive sulfur-emitting drywall samples were all produced in China. Certain Chinese samples had emission rates of hydrogen sulfide 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall samples. The patterns of reactive sulfur compounds emitted from drywall samples show a clear distinction between the certain Chinese drywall samples manufactured in 2005/2006 and non-Chinese drywall samples. Some Chinese drywall samples were similar to non-Chinese samples. Finally, several Chinese samples manufactured in 2009 demonstrate a marked decrease in sulfur emissions as compared to the 2005/2006 Chinese samples.
CPSC is also releasing a study (PDF) by its contractor, Environmental Health & Engineering Inc., that tested whether sulfur-reducing bacteria are present in Chinese drywall. Eight out of 10 drywall samples tested showed no bacterial growth including Chinese samples that emitted high levels of hydrogen sulfide in the LBNL study. One sample of Chinese drywall and one sample of U.S. drywall showed very low levels of sulfur-reducing bacterial growth.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers to exercise caution in hiring contractors who claim to be experts in testing for and removing problem drywall. In a December 2009 Consumer Alert, the FTC recommended that homeowners confirm a contractor’s references, qualifications and background before agreeing to hire them.
Also in December, HUD announced to cities, counties and states that the funds they receive from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program may be a resource to help local communities combat the problem drywall. These Block Grant funds are given to communities which decide how to spend them, within the requirements of the law that set up the grant program. Homeowners should contact their city or county to see if they have programs that can help.
In addition, HUD has encouraged its FHA mortgage lenders nationwide to consider extending temporary relief to allow families experiencing problems paying their mortgages because of problem drywall, to allow the homeowner time to repair their homes.