Drywall Concerns

Wednesday - 3/4/2009, 7:56pm EST

WFED's Tom Temin

As heard on sister-station WTOP.

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By Tom Temin
FederalNewsRadio

As if people didn't have enough trouble staying in their homes because of the mortgage and home price meltdown, there's news that the walls themselves might be driving people out.

Q: What do homeowners have to worry about?

A: In some areas of the country, drywall made in China is decomposing, causing foul odors and an unlivable situation. Even nosebleeds and headaches. It has gotten the attention of at least one member of Congress, Vernon Buchanan of Florida, who has called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Trade Representative. Two agencies are already looking into this issue - the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: Where is this happening?

A: Most of the reported problems are in Florida, where humidity can be a problem in the first place. But one lawyers' group - America's Watchdog - has been investigating this issue, and says that reports are showing up of rotting drywall in new homes in Maryland and Virginia as well. The affected dwellings were built between 2004 and 2008 and include condos, townhouses and standalone houses.

Q: What causes the problem?

A: Investigators suspect a high level of sulfur in the Chinese gypsum. If true, the fumes could be corrosive, affecting wiring and plumbing. Most of the foul drywall appears to come from a company called Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co.

Q: What can homeowners do if they think their home may have been affected by this drywall?

A: They should contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That information can be found on their website, www.cpsc.gov.

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