First Results Of Gov Study Of Chinese Drywall Inconclusive, But More Tests To Come

Yesterday the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced some findings from its study of the problematic Chinese drywall, which 1,900 Florida homeowners have complained stinks and makes people sick. The commission told the Associated Press that “no connections have been made yet,” but that they’re doing more tests—which means there’s still no definitive answer on who should be held financially responsible if the homes have to be gutted and repaired, which the Wall Street Journal says could cost as much as $25 billion dollars.

According to the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, these are the three tests the CPSC has carried out so far:

  • Elemental and chemical testing, which showed the presence of elemental sulfur in Chinese but not non-Chinese drywall. Testing also showed no presence of radiation in the suspect drywall.
  • Chamber studies, which found that Chinese drywall emits volatile sulfur compounds at a higher rate than non-Chinese drywall.
  • Indoor air studies, which led to the preliminary finding of “detectable” concentrations of acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. The compounds were found in tests conducted in 10 homes in Florida and Louisiana, and in Chinese and non-Chinese drywall.

Weirdly, those are the same results the EPA released back in May. It would be nice to get some new information about whether the drywall is offgassing enough toxins to harm people, especially since the CPSC says it’s already spent $3.5 million studying the project.

The CSPC started its investigation back in February, and maybe it really does take this long to first verify that the material is putting off toxic fumes, then verify that it can produce enough fumes inside a home to cause health problems. But nine months and counting?

“Feds: Chinese drywall reports still inconclusive” [Associated Press]
“Tests: Chinese drywall not tied to health issues” [Cape Coral Daily Breeze]
“U.S. Stops Short of Faulting Drywall” [Wall Street Journal]
(Photo: Velo Steve)

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  1. FatLynn says:

    $25 Billion? Methinks there will be a lot of former homeowners when all is said and done.

  2. Riff Raff says:

    “But nine months and counting?”

    That seems perfectly on par with government studies. Once the Chinese-funded “study” concludes there is no danger, and those stupid, fat, lazy, Capitalist dogs are only imagining it, then everything will be fine. The stench was from the hippos’ own stink, and the electrical fires were caused by shoddy wiring. Case closed.

    And how DARE you smelly pigs insult the great, quality products of China!

  3. sevenwhitehorses says:

    3.5 million spent, nine months of time and they have nothing definitive? it seems very peculiar that they can not figure out outgassing nor if it has a given level of sulfur in it? why?

  4. DoubleEcho says:

    I still don’t understand how they spent all that time and money, and can’t link the corroded wiring to the drywall. Well, let’s see – The homes that had this drywall installed had corroded copper wiring. They weren’t all built by the same damn builders, so I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that the drywall was the cause.

    There, you may now pay me $1.75m, as I’m a nice guy and I only charge half.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’m with DoubleEcho: While the full ramifications of this defective Chinese drywall could potentially take years and mountains of money to determine, it seems a laughably easy task to determine if it is the Chinese drywall that is the root cause of the issues. So far it is the only link that has been suggested by any legitimate party.

  6. Snarkysnake says:

    I was in Home Depot this morning. I made it a point to see what a sheet of made in the USA (and Canada ,because Canada is a Gypsum superpower) drywall costs. At my HD , it was $7.57 for a 4X8 sheet.

    Now. Drywall is heavy. Real heavy and bulky and it needs special handling because it can crack and break and that ruins it. It has to be kept indoors. So it’s a hassle.

    My question is: If this stuff is only about 23 cents a square foot , ($7.57 Divided by 32 square feet) , how much money did the sellers expect to save themselves after having it manufactured , shipped ,loaded ,shipped ( again) ,stored and distributed ? I mean , there’s not a lot of room to move when the stuff is selling for only about a quarter a square foot.How could it have possibly been profitable to import this stuff ? Further , how much did the shoddy ,asshole builders “save” by buying this inferior quality material ?

    I would really like to know if anyone has any insight on this…

    • Onion_Volcano says:

      @Snarkysnake:

      Business men cut costs wherever they can. A penny saved is a penny earned.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Snarkysnake: It was not a cost issue, it was a supply issue.

      You had a housing boom which put most US manufacturers near capacity, you then had the Huricane summer in Florida where there were multiple back to back huricanes. I believe that Huricane Katrina also played a part as well (I am too lazy to look at the timelines for all of this) There was a sudden surge in drywall sales for people who wanted to repair/rebuild their homes, and US manufacturers could not meet the demand, so large users of drywall (new home “cookie currer” builders) sought out alternate supplies to ensure that they would not be without drywall, and they bought it from China who could provide the products in the quantities they were looking for.

    • usa_gatekeeper says:

      @Snarkysnake: At the time, there was an issue of shortage with US-made drywall … a lot was needed in the South …. so it took little effort on distributors’ parts to import same-cost or cheaper drywall. In this case, it happened to come from China with a little extra filler mixed in.

    • FatLynn says:

      @Snarkysnake: Sure. Typically, drywall used in North America is produced in North America for the very reasons you mentioned. In the building boom from 2004 – 2006, total drywall demand exceeded total North American manufacturing capacity. Distributors began bringing in Drywall from overseas because it was the only way to meet the demand at all, not because the Chinese were somehow able to undercut prices.

    • econobiker says:

      @Snarkysnake: Everything from China is cheaper than the US.

      Over 10 years ago I worked in a manufacturer where the machine shop bought a new polished granite surface plate for measuring parts. The cost of a Chinese quarried, precision polished, and shipped to the US chunk of rock was less than 1/2 the cost of of a US sourced plate. The machinists could not believe that, even with the shipping, a huge chunk of granite was less to buy from China…

      [en.wikipedia.org]

  7. mwc5446 says:

    maybe its not the drywall, maybe its the insulation, or the glue, or the paper on the drywall, or the carpet, or the wood, or the plastic pipes…on and on and on…

    • DoubleEcho says:

      @mwc5446: That would be assuming that each builder was using the exact same materials in all houses affected in all states this was used in (Florida, Louisiana and Alabama). This drywall was estimated to have been used in 100,000 homes.

      Like I keep saying – this drywall was found to have elemental sulfur in it, obviously high levels too if it’s corroding wiring and causing a rotten egg smell. If it wasn’t such a high level I’m sure the paint would have covered up the smell. I don’t see why it’s so hard to believe.

  8. need2know says:

    this is an awful problem where I live, which is Port Saint Lucie, FL. A majority of homes here have this drywall. People ARE getting sick from this…nose bleeds, headaches, respitory problems, etc.

    It’s hard to watch families go through this. Most cannot afford to move out and lots of insurance companies are dropping these homeowners. I mean insurance companies aren’t covering any costs to fix the problem in the first place, but now they are completely turning their backs on these homeowners. Now these people will not be able to find homeowners insurance else where. Home owners insurance is required with your mortgage…now we have the people running into that problem…foreclosure.

  9. bobloblawsblog says:

    shit in = shit out. drywall has to be replaced every so often, its fragile, it absorbs water easily, etc. overall it’s a cheap , crappy product. there are hundreds of thousands of houses still using the original plaster from when the house was built 100 yrs ago. but i you want a 4000sq ft house and only want to pay $100,000, drywall is the answer.

    I’m currently designing our new home, which we will build this spring. it will be more expensive per sq ft, but will last forever. well, till our kids die at least. i should also note it will only be 1200 sq ft -

    • DoubleEcho says:

      @bobloblawsblog: I hear ya on that one – my house is hybrid plaster and drywall because it’s 100 years old and has had some renovations. The original walls are solid, and solid walls give your house further stability too.

  10. donssword says:

    Keep in mind that this is the same CPSC that is killing the US handmade toy industry with CPSIA, single handedly giving the toy industry to large manufacturers, and Walmart and Target.

    And, CPSC has given Mattel exemption from conformity to the new laws. Quote:

    “the CPSC approved seven Mattel labs, located in Mexico, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and California as “firewalled third party laboratories” – the first to get that designation under the CPSIA. “Firewalled” means they are deemed to be “insulated from undue corporate influence.” According to federal records, Mattel spent more than $1 million in 2008 on lobbying. It was instrumental in getting the “firewall” exception added to the law.”

    See:
    [www.handmadetoyalliance.org]

    [jahangiri.us]

    • Rachacha says:

      @donssword: A cople points of clarification. The CPSIA was drafted by Congress, NOT The CPSC (infact, the CPSC opposed many of the requirements that are now in the CPSIA because they knew the CPSIA was too broad and generic). Many of the burdensome requirements were added as a result of lobying by groups like US PIRG, Public Citizen and Consumers Union.

      Also, the firewalled laboratories are not an exemption from conformity. Mattel is still required to comply with the Federal safety standards, the only thing is that they can use their own internal accredited testing laboratories to conduct the test, rather than paying a 3rd party testing lab to conduct the testing for them. Mattel’s laboratories are audited and reviewed by the same organizations that review 3rd party laboratories, so they had to demonstrate the same level of competence as any other lab did.

      If you want to complain to anyone about the CPSIA, complain to your congress person.

  11. supernova87a says:

    There’s a reason that all these homebuilders and suppliers (and home buyers) went with drywall and other products from China — because these new manufacturing industries over there, with no chance to yet be regulated and tested with the full benefit of the safety and oversight infrastructure that we enjoy here, were cheaper.

    Lead in toys, sulfur in drywall, melamine in pet food — all of this is because companies found that it’s cheaper not to be regulated, in a country that doesn’t know how to do this yet, and is growing up faster than it can handle.

    So blame it on the companies that were out to increase profits by outsourcing like this to dodge consumer protections. And blame it on American consumers who want cheap stuff, no matter where it’s produced. Don’t blame it on the Chinese — they got even worse products in their own markets, and worse effects on their people, because of America’s hunger for the cheap and quick.

    It comes to bite you in the end.

  12. Al Swearengen says:

    The insurance companies have been denying these drywall claims because they are “construction defects” not damage to the home. So, homeowners must go after the builders for shoddy construction, but a lot of homebuilders have gone under, so the homeowners are not going to have recourse against anyone, and will need to fix the problem out of their own pockets.

  13. winshape says:

    @FatLynn: And by US Gov’t, you mean us.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    @FatLynn: How about a tariff on Chinese building goods imported until $30B is taken in? The extra $5B is a restocking charge.

  15. FatLynn says:

    @winshape: Well, yes.

    Amongst the producers, builders, and distributors, it is hard to know who is responsible, because there may have been mis-representations up and down the chain. All three should have to make sure their product meets quality standards, but, for example, if the distributors certified to the builders that standards had been met, the builders may be less culpable. The same is true if the producers hoodwinked the distributors.

  16. Skaperen says:

    @winshape: That’s the cost of doing business with China.

  17. Rachacha says:

    @Rachacha: OK, I have taken a very quick look at the data and as I suspected, there is some outlying data that does not make the Chinese Drywall the primary cause (at least not definitively at this point). As with anything the Government does, they want to make sure that they have covered all of the bases, and thus, they are conducting additional testing to support what they believe to be true.

    I encourage you to take a look at the data. In some cases, the Chinese drywall outgasses more, and in other cases the non-Chinese drywall outgasses more.

    Also at issue is not just corroding electrical wiring, but the ill feeling that some people reported. [www.cpsc.gov]

  18. Kogenta says:

    @DoubleEcho: It’s not so much defending it I think as that the government needs to be almost ironcladly sure of the exact problem. I mean, imagine the shitstore that would occur if they point the smoking gun at something and then oops, a few months later a study shows that it wasn’t that but rather a different cause. By that time, everyone will have been scrambling to fix the problem with millions having gone down the drain on a non-fix.

  19. rorschachex says:

    @Trai_Dep: A tariff? What’s a tariff? A tax on imported goods? What’s that? If we make importing goods from other countries expensive and undesirable to our countrymen, we won’t have any products at all. Do we even make drywall in the US anymore? I thought it was US-branded, but made elsewhere, like Mexico.
    /s