The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says its scientists have found a "strong association" between some homes built with Chinese drywall and corrosion of pipes and wires. Homeowners in 32 states, the District and Puerto Rico have complained about feeling sick as well as damage to the metals in their homes, apparently due to problematic drywall.
Mary Flannigan says her home is making her sick.
"Headaches, allergies, asthma. I've had pneumonia several times since we moved into the house," Flannigan said.
She says parts of her house are also turning black with soot.
"It's jewelry, it's the doorstops in the house, it's the pipes underneath our sinks, guitar strings, it's anything that's metal," Flannigan explained.
Homeowners across the US have filed more than 2,000 reports with similar complaints.
Scientists believe the problem comes from drywall (gypsum wallboard), most of it made in China.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tested 41 problematic homes and compared them to 10 healthy ones built around the same time and in the same neighborhoods.
"We have found a strong association between problematic drywall which contains high degrees of sulfur, and the corrosion and health symptoms that people are reporting," CPSC spokesman Alex Filip said.
He says the problem homes are mainly built within the last four years in parts of the country that are humid. These homes tend to be more air tight than older homes.
"The combination of a buildup of hydrogen sulfide gas in those homes and the fact that the air exchange rate," Filip said, "the amount of air coming in from the outside was so limited that it was having a corrosive effect on metal items within the home."
Causing damage to electrical wiring, plumbing components and anything else that is metal.
Most of the complaints are from homeowners in coastal states like Florida and Louisiana. After hurricanes in 2005 and 2006 destroyed many homes in those areas, a boom in home construction caused a shortage in U.S. made drywall.
Home builders began importing more drywall from China. The U.S. is no longer importing Chinese drywall. American scientists have been traveling to China to investigate.
"They gave us access to both the mines where the drywall materials come from and the manufacturing facilities.So we were to go in and take samples and talk to them about this," he said.
Filip says his agency is continuing to study the long term health affects of breathing fumes with high levels of sulfur. The CPSC is also looking into safety hazards in damaged electrical components.
"Are the smoke alarms being deteriorated, are the gas pipes, copper pipes coming into the homes are they deteriorating," Filip said.
The commission expects to answer these questions by mid-year 2010.