Chinese drywall, corrosion linked

MIAMI — What thousands of homeowners nationwide have believed about Chinese drywall was validated Monday, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission said there is a link between the imported material and problems with corrosion in homes that have it.

The conclusion followed testing at 51 homes in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia that found "a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall and corrosion in those homes."

Homeowners have been complaining for about a year to federal and state government agencies that their homes smell of sulfur or rotten eggs, that the copper in their air-conditioning units and electrical wires in their homes is corroding and that other metals are turning black. They have also reported problems breathing, headaches and nosebleeds.

But until this week, no agency had officially linked corrosion problems with drywall. The commission is still investigating the link between wallboard and health concerns.

Monday's report said chemicals found in the homes tested were at levels lower than what might be expected to cause irritation, but the combination of those compounds with other substances could lead to the symptoms families are experiencing.

The agency cautioned that not all Chinese drywall is a source of problems.

"Not all drywall is alike," said Jack McCarthy, president of Environmental Health and Engineering, which conducted the testing for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Not all Chinese drywall is alike. It depends on what it's made of — not the country it came from."

Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said the agency is "not limited in the scope of our investigation to just Chinese drywall."

To date, the commission has received 2,091 complaints from residents in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components are related to Chinese drywall. The majority — more than 1,400 — are from Florida residents.

The next phase of the agency's work is finding ways to identify problem drywall and ways to treat homes that have it.