The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), as part of its investigations into more than 180 reports from 13 states about problems associated with Chinese drywall, is analyzing both Chinese- and American-made versions of the product to figure out why bad drywall is damaging homes, the agency reports.

A fact sheet posted on the CPSC web site late Thursday says reports about drywall have come in mainly from Florida but also have arrived from Louisiana, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, California, Washington, Wyoming, Arizona, and Tennessee, plus the District of Columbia. Most of the complaints involved homes constructed in 2006 and 2007, CPSC said, and revolve around complaints that the homes smell like rotten eggs, residents are suffering health problems, and metal components inside the homes are becoming blackened and corroded.

The complaints initially were linked to drywall produced in China, but on April 24 a Florida couple filed a class-action lawsuit against Georgia-Pacific Gypsum and 84 Lumber, suggesting that American-made, GP-branded wallboard sold by 84 was causing the same kind of problems to health and home that the Chinese drywall is alleged to have produced. In essence, the lawsuit argues that the process to create synthetic gypsum, a material used in much American-made drywall, contains so much sulfur that it can produce the same results seen with the Chinese product.

In its research into the Chinese situation, CPSC could help resolve the lawsuit as well. That's because CPSC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together to analyze the chemical components of both Chinese and U.S. drywall, CPSC's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, wrote in a letter sent today to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

"By conducting chamber studies on multiple drywall samples subject to various environments, the scientists in [CPSC's Director for Health Sciences] are pursuing a testing plan that will determine exactly what gases are emanating from the drywall," Nord wrote. "This plan includes studies that will test both Chinese and American samples so that health effects that are directly and specifically related to the drywall can be assessed."

In addition, Nord wrote, the CPSC is:

  • collecting air samples in homes where problems were reported;
  • examining and testing components in the ome that allegedly were affected by drywall emissions;
  • coordinating efforts with border control officers to monitor whether more shipments of suspect drywall may be entering the country;
  • working with CPSC's Chinese counterpart, which is conducting its own investigation; and
  • creating a website on the drywall issue.

Added Nord: "It is critical that CPSC's technical evaluation on drywall and the related compliance inspections be done with a thoroughness and exactness that will assure that future potential remedies, when made available for homeowners, will not be jeopardized by incomplete or short-circuited investigative work."