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Experts Skeptical of New Report on Infant Deaths at Fort Bragg

Experts say tests used to eliminate drywall as a problem were unreliable and incomplete—and that more tests should have been done to determine the cause of recent infant deaths at the base.

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission disclosed the results of its assessment of the drywall used in two homes at Fort Bragg, N.C., including 144 Groesbeek Street. (Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica)

Update (2/11/2011): This story was updated to include information from Environmental Health & Engineering, the company that conducted the tests for the new CPSC report.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Army released a long-awaited report Thursday about a rash of unexplained infant deaths at Fort Bragg, N.C., concluding that no environmental issue—including contaminated drywall—was to blame for the babies’ deaths.

But three experts who reviewed the report for the Herald-Tribune and ProPublica said the tests used to examine the drywall were unreliable and incomplete—and that more tests should have been done.

At least nine infants have died of unknown causes at Fort Bragg since 2007, including three infants of different parents who lived in a single house.

In Spring 2010, Army criminal investigators who probed one baby’s death noticed corrosion and other signs that can point to problematic drywall—most of it imported from China during the housing boom—and ordered that a sample from the infant’s room be tested.

The results from a laboratory chamber test revealed high levels of two sulfur gases associated with contaminated drywall—levels that exceeded a known sample of tainted Chinese board used for comparison and that were 14 to 18 times greater than an untainted control sample. Many experts consider the chamber test the most definitive for tainted drywall.

“The only test result I’ll accept is a chamber test,” said Michael Foreman, head of Foreman & Associates, which has been investigating tainted drywall since the crisis emerged more than two years ago. “It’s the only one that measures off-gassing. That’s the only thing that matters when we’re talking about tainted drywall.”

Foreman is a member of the American Society for Testing and Materials committee that is studying the drywall problem.

After the Army received the test results, the family was told to leave their home, and Fort Bragg’s commanders ordered additional tests. Instead of chamber tests, however, the new tests measured certain elements within the drywall. Based on those results, the Army announced that the drywall was not problematic.

The report that the CPSC and Army released Thursday reinforced that finding. It said that the homes didn’t have tainted drywall or any other environmental problem.

But the new report relied on the same questionable methods that were used in the Army’s second round of tests. The findings also are at odds with a report produced by one of the CPSC’s own inspectors, who was sent to Fort Bragg to examine the two homes last year. Based on the chamber test, and on corrosion, failing electronics and health symptoms described by the families, he reported that the homes contained signs consistent with tainted drywall.

At the news conference on Thursday, officials said the conclusions in that report were premature.

Dean Woodard, the CPSC’s director of defect investigations, said that based on the new report the agency does “not believe there is a connection between the drywall and the tragic deaths.” He called the test results associated with the drywall “unremarkable” and said the CPSC believed they “do not require any follow up.” Only more pesticide-related tests were recommended, he said.

But the testing methods detailed in the new report raised concerns among the experts who reviewed the document for the Herald-Tribune and ProPublica.

“If you want to see what’s wrong with the drywall, you test the drywall. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that when you’re trying to address how much the drywall is off-gassing,” said Michael Shaw, vice president of Interscan Corp. and a member of the ASTM drywall committee. “The idea that they are skating around this and not doing the obvious measurement is very troubling.”

Shaw said then when doing any scientific study, the most direct approach is generally the best.

“If you want to know how much someone weighs, you put him on a scale. You don’t throw him in a swimming pool and try to calculate how much water he displaces,” he said.

Foreman was more blunt: “A company or government official that won’t do a chamber test is one that in my opinion is scared to death of what the results could show.”

Jack McCarthy, president of Environmental Health & Engineering, which conducted the CPSC’s most recent tests, said at the news conference that he saw no reason to conduct chamber tests for out-gassing, because the company had done elemental sulfur tests instead. In those tests, pieces of drywall were examined to measure how much sulfur they contained. McCarthy said his company had also placed strips of copper in the houses for two weeks to see if they would corrode.

But Foreman was skeptical of those methods. Using a controlled setting like a lab chamber—or even a sealed jar—to see whether drywall will corrode copper is more reliable, he said.

“You can’t expect to find any significant amount of corrosion in two weeks unless you’ve have a very, very bad house. It’s just not long enough,” he said. “It’s certainly not what I would hang my hat on to make a definitive pronouncement.”

Two years into the federal investigation of defective drywall, the CPSC has yet to determine precisely what causes some drywall to release sulfur gases. ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune have compiled an interactive database of almost 7,000 homeowners who say their houses have been contaminated by defective drywall. Repairing the homes can cost $100,000 or more, because all the electrical wiring and drywall must be removed and then replaced.

Shaw said that at the end of the day, the CPSC and the Army may turn out to be correct in saying that the drywall is not connected to the babies’ deaths. But by not doing the conclusive tests they have likely raised more questions than answers for family members and the wider community.

“There may not be any problem with the drywall, but they didn’t run the obvious test, which to me is suspicious,” he said.

sounds like a job for NIST & the 911 Commision…their tests ALWAYS come out the right way too…

As Paul Harvey would say ...

Now the rest of the story !!!

Foreman has succesfully diagnosed and analized over 600 Tainted Corrosive Drywall properties in South Florida.

To-date, his NDE Protocol, published February 1st, 2011 has not been proven wrong once.

At this time, there is no standard for what level is acceptable or not acceptable for off-gassing or out-gassing parameters when conducting Tainted Corrosive Drywall tests.

The main issue, affected or infected people with Tainted Corrosive Drywall are not getting the correct tests performed.

Simply put, most tests are designed to look for specific minerals, believed to be ... markers ... indiciative of Tainted Corrosive Drywall.

These tests are not validated and definitive answer whether or not the drywall is off-gassing corrosive vapors, found in the residences.

Drywall has been discovered, that does not stink at all, yet it causes severe corrosion.

Some drywall that stinks beyond belief, has minimal corrosion, and some drywall that stinks and corrodes rapidly.

The point is there is several types of Tainted Corrosive Drywall, severals manufacturers in the world with several different mining and manufacturing techniques, but there is a one-size-fits-all test ... CHAMBER TESTING ... period !!!

The only proven and documented evidence from the famous Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and the CPSC is a Chamber Test.

With NO documented acceptable standard level, at this time, Foreman and Associates strongly feels, over 75 micrograms off-gassing per square meter per hour causes very detectable corrosion after 90 days exposure.

Any level over 20 micrograms per square meter per hour is not test result you want to hear, but a Chamber Test is the only reliable test that accurately details an affected homeowners Tainted Corrosive Drywall off-gassing levels.

Ryan Ingle
Foreman and Associates

Michael S. Foreman

Feb. 11, 2011, 10:02 a.m.

Great article ...
Factual and detailed ...

As Paul Harvey would say ...

Now the rest of the story !!!

Foreman has successfully diagnosed and analyzed over 600 Tainted Corrosive Drywall properties in South Florida.

To-date, our firms NDE Protocol, formulated January 2009, and published February 1st, 2011, has not been proven wrong once.

At this time, there is no standard or parameter of what level is acceptable or not acceptable concerning off-gassing or out-gassing when conducting Tainted Corrosive Drywall tests.

The main or big issue at hand to-day, affected or infected people with Tainted Corrosive Drywall are not getting or requesting that the correct testing is performed.

Simply put, most tests are designed to look for specific minerals, believed to be ... markers ... indicative of Tainted Corrosive Drywall.

These tests are not validated and definitive answer whether or not the drywall is off-gassing corrosive vapors, found in the residences.

Drywall has been discovered, that does not stink at all, yet it causes severe corrosion.

Some drywall that stinks beyond belief, has minimal corrosion, and some drywall that stinks corrodes rapidly.

The point is there is several types of Tainted Corrosive Drywall, several manufacturers in the world, including domestic, with several different mining and manufacturing techniques, and there is a one-size-fits-all test ... CHAMBER TESTING ... period !!!

The only proven and documented evidence from the famous Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and the CPSC is a Chamber Test.

With NO documented acceptable standard level, at this time, Foreman and Associates strongly feels, over 75 micrograms of hydrogen sulfide, off-gassing per square meter, per hour, causes very detectable corrosion after 90 days exposure.

Any level over 20 micrograms per square meter, per hour are not test result you want to hear.

Chamber Testing is the only reliable test, that accurately details, documents, and measures, affected or infected, Tainted Corrosive Drywall off-gassing levels.

At this time, I would think, the proper course of action / testing, would be to establish ...

Acceptable and Non-Acceptable Levels of hydrogen sulfide out-gassing and corrosion !!!

Michael S. Foreman
Forensic Construction Consultant

Foreman and Associates

http://www.ConstructionGuru.com

So they told the family to get out and then announced that the drywall wasn’t the issue.  Of course it wasn’t!  (Cough) (Spit)  A piece of copper showed no corrosion after—(Hack)—two weeks!  (Cough-retch)

I lived on Bragg for 4 years. Whats even more startling and has yet to be addressed is the amount of miscarrages that happen there. I know several women who had no problems with reproduction before arrving there but have been unable to carry a baby after moving on post. Between this, the dead babies, sinking houses, and buried garbage under the houses, I would say that this base is best avoided. You can bet the Army’s arm will have to be twisted before they take responsibilty for the lack of care for the families that live on base. The barracks were crap for years before it was taped and put on youtube.

Maybe someone should investigate the possibility of vaccine related deaths.

How decetive realestate ,realtors and banks are in Florida operate in time of finacial hard times is to sell contaminated houses at any cost to whoever.
Upon purchase in Nov 08 we went to Florida to ready the home ,upon having to put lights in I discovered black ground wires not only in fixture boxes but everywhere. Now first week of March 2009 time magazine runs article on chinese drywall. By April we have HVAC checking coils and everthing starts goingdown hill.
What we foung in returning in April is a very strong sulfur smell coming through the front door, without opening the door the order was ever present.Light fixtures that had been installed in the 3rd week of Jan were corroded so as one likes to say that this is harmless and is within limits is hogwash.
Why would one believe talking heads from the CDC
or the CPSC because they are only going to do what higher level goverment will tell them to do.If
your own President will shy from the issue you well better know that it is off limits.The gas will cause nose bleeds in short time and will crate rash of unexplained orgin and take a long time to go away.
In as much as there is particlite that is constantley falling from the ceiling and you are breathing this in as well. Please do not believe everything talking heads tell you,they can only do what their aloud to do.

I have to question Foreman and Associates competency in this matter.  It is well know that the out-gassing test is a secondary test, of value if - and only if - a toxic chemical is found using more standard chemical analysis techniques.  If no such chemical or chemicals are found there is absolutely no reason to do an out-gassing test.  If a chemical is not present in the material, there is no way that it can out-gas out of the material.

If a suspect chemical is found in the material itself, then an out-gassing test must be performed to determine if that chemical may be released in a gaseous phase.

I wonder who is funding Foreman & Associates to do this work?  There website indicates that they are fishing to be hired as an expert witness in this matter.  It is also disturbing that it does not seem that any of the principles have the competency (i.e. a Ph.D. in Chemistry) to be able to conduct or analyze the experimental test.

(Disclosure: I am a Research Assistant Professor in Analytic Chemistry and have no research funding from the Army of the CPSC.)

To the Research Assistant—I’m neither a chemist nor a research assistant but the fact that you believe a Ph.D. is required to understand the properties of the materials used in the making of drywall, or a Ph.D. to understand a chamber test (when years of experience will do very nicely) virtually screamed at me (because of your arrogance, of course) to go to google to find out if ALL drywall is made with sulphur.

Lo and behold!  It IS!  So the offending gases are part of the makeup of drywall—good and bad.  Prima Facie evidence exists before any test is performed.

You’ve questioned the motives, the veracity, and the chemistry and you didn’t even google to find out the chemical properties of drywall.

Just proves that all Ph.D.s are not created equal.

(Disclosure:  I am NOT a research assistant, I do not receive money from any of parties involved except the USGovernment and that’s my social security check.)

For those with reading comprehension issues, the article stated clearly that chamber tests originally showed outgassing.  The conflict is that the Army ordered further testing that offered results excluding the early chamber results and early testimony pointing to drywall outgassing.  In other words, as is typical, the Army designed the tests and cherry picked the results to reach the conclusion they wanted.  And we haven’t seen this before?

The way this problem has been handled by our government should not be a suprise to anyone.
Remember, the government denied that AGENT ORANGE used a a defoliant in Viet Nam was NOT the cause of severe and fatal health problems to our returning vets. Finally, they were forced to tell us the truth.

The way this problem has been handled by our government should not be a suprise to anyone.
Remember, the government denied that AGENT ORANGE used a a defoliant in Viet Nam was NOT the cause of severe and fatal health problems to our returning vets. Finally, they were forced to tell us the truth.
The way our government has mistreated our servicemen and women throughout history is a NATIONAL DISGRACE.
During my life time only Secretay Gates has actually acted to help by making changes in hospital and post hospital care for our vets.

Does anyone know which housing these deaths were reported in?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Tainted Drywall

Tainted Drywall: How Companies Kept Silent While Homeowners Suffered

Foul air from Chinese-made drywall has created a nightmare for thousands of homeowners.

The Story So Far

ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune began examining in May 2010 what was—or wasn’t—being done to help people whose homes had been built with contaminated drywall. The problematic drywall, much of it imported from China, emitted foul odors and frequently caused mysterious failures of new appliances and electronics. Worse yet, some residents complained of serious respiratory problems, bloody noses, and migraines.
More »

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