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Nov 25, 2009 12:09 PM by sleonard

Chinese Drywall safety and precautionary information

Baton Rouge, LA. State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning provides the following safety and precautionary information to business and homeowners who might have Chinese Drywall products that could cause heath and safety hazards. "We want to ensure that Louisiana citizens have safety information on hand to protect their families from this danger", said Marshal Browning.


What is Chinese drywall and why the concern?

Chinese drywall (also known as reactive drywall) refers to tainted drywall imported from China which reportedly corrodes copper and metal surfaces, often gives off a foul, rotten-egg like odor, and can make you sick. Although investigation is still ongoing, the issues with this product center around the toxic nature of the materials suspected to have been used in the manufacturing process. Heat and humidity cause these materials to release noxious gases, resulting in the foul odor and metal corrosion. Because of its brittle nature, the handling of this drywall may dislodge toxic particulate into the air which can easily enter the lungs.


How can I tell if my home has Chinese drywall?
Common complaints from residents in homes suspected to contain the problem drywall have been:
• a "rotten egg" or ammonia smell within their homes.
• health concerns such as irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, bloody noses, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks.
• blackened and corroded metal components in their homes. With this corrosion residents have reported premature failures of central air conditioning evaporator coils and intermittent operation or failure of appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers, and electrical devices such as televisions and video game systems.
Complaints seem focused on homes that were built or remodeled in 2006 to 2007 when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.


What fire and safety concerns should I be aware of related to Chinese drywall?
In addition to the complete or intermittent failure of central air conditioning systems and household appliances, the corrosion of electrical wiring can hamper the effectiveness of your smoke detection and fire alarm systems, creating a serious life-threatening situation. Be on the lookout for these signs indicating potential electrical hazards in your home:


• A circuit breaker which needs resetting frequently without any apparent cause. (Especially if a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) trips frequently. Arc-fault circuit interrupters are a special kind of circuit breaker that is designed to detect arcing conditions in the electrical wiring.)
• Lights that dim or flicker often without any specific cause, such as the air conditioner or the refrigerator turning on;
• Bright flashes or showers of sparks anywhere in your electrical system, which may indicate arching;
• Unusual sounds from electrical system devices, like sizzling or buzzing;
• Switch plates, dimmer switches, receptacle outlet covers, cords and plugs that are discolored from overheating or painfully hot to touch;
• Pungent smells such as strong fumes from overheating plastic or electrical insulation materials;
• Any shock, even a mild tingle.


What should I do if I suspect Chinese drywall is in my home?
The most important issue is your health and safety. If you are suffering from the health symptoms associated with the exposure to Chinese drywall, please consult your physician as soon as possible.
If you are experiencing any of the electrical anomalies mentioned above, or suspect the presence of Chinese drywall in your home, shut off electrical service to areas that show damage from the corrosive effects of this drywall and take extra precautions in monitoring your home for fire. You may consider consulting a licensed professional.


For more information and timely updates to this situation contact the US Consumer Product Safety Commission Hotline at 800-638-2772 (TTY 301-595-7054) or go the website at http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/index.html

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