Journalism in the Public Interest

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 ground wire connected to the green screw is blackened and corroded as a result of defective drywall. (CPSC)

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.

And yet they make it so hard to build homes with eco-friendly, user-friendly, durable building materials like cob.

Bruce Macdonald

March 22, 2011, 4:33 p.m.

The real reason it was done?  Economics, the cost of chinese drywall was a pittance compared with domestic drywall. 

Unscrupulous Material Wholesalers saw the opportunity to make a buck or two not caring what their contractor/installers were telling them about the performance problems encountered.

Frankly, I’m just sick of all the crap that we import from the PRC and, to my knowledge, our government just rolls over.  Why?  Because the PRC has us by the short hairs.  Let’s just spend a few bucks more and buy domestic.  It’s patriotic, saves and produces jobs and allows Americans feel as though they don’t have to depend upon a country that is a competitor in more ways than one.

steve pittsley

March 22, 2011, 8:21 p.m.

My daughter still has Problems with her asthma , and its been years since this crap was installed in my home. I have no money to fix it, so , we suffer ...  Thanks, for Nothing , Feds ..

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 »

Search Our Database for Homes With Tainted Drywall

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories