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Federal Agency Changes Guidelines for Repairing Homes With Defective Drywall

Wiring doesn't necessarily need to be removed from homes built with defective drywall, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission released a new set of drywall remediation guidelines last week that has shocked and confused homeowners, according to our partners at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The guidelines, released late Friday, said tainted drywall should be removed from the homes. But they reverse the CPSC's earlier recommendation that all the wiring should also be removed. The CPSC still suggests the removal of "electrical distribution components" like switches, receptacles and circuit breakers but now states that electrical wiring does "not necessarily need to be replaced."

Nearly 7,000 homes have been affected by contaminated drywall that outgasses large amounts of sulfur gas, sometimes triggering respiratory problems and causing electronics like air conditioners and refrigerators to fail.

Richard Kampf, a homeowner in Lee County and a former chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia, is furious about the vagueness of the new guidelines and has asked the CPSC to hold a public hearing so homeowners can express their concerns.

"I'm so upset I can barely even talk about it," Kampf told the Herald-Tribune. "I guess it will need to take someone dying someday for them to consider they made a mistake."

Kampf and other homeowners worry that the new guidelines will create a fire hazard in the affected homes, because the corroded wiring could cause electronics to short-circuit.

Adding to the confusion over the issue, the guidelines conflict with those issued last year by U.S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon as part of the drywall litigation he is presiding over in federal court in New Orleans.

Fallon's guidelines explicitly require the removal of all wiring, a subject of intense debate during the court proceedings. Those guidelines are currently being followed by one of the drywall manufacturers—Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd.—as part of a pilot program to begin fixing 300 homes.

Russ Herman, liaison counsel for plaintiffs in the litigation, doesn't think the CPSC's new guidelines are likely to influence Judge Fallon's recommendations. Herman said that if Knauf tries to argue that the remediation guidelines should be changed in light of the CPSC report, attorneys representing the homeowners "would vehemently and tenaciously advocate that all the wiring has got to be removed."

An attorney for Knauf did not return calls for comment on this story. Judge Fallon's clerk said the judge will not comment on the guidelines to the media.

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