CPSC American drywall investigation ends with a whimper (concl.)

In our last post, we were discussing a Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation into American-manufactured drywall. The CPSC’s earlier investigation into Chinese drywall had been a useful tool in homeowners’ efforts to recover the health problems and construction issues caused by the defective drywall. The agency launched this inquiry when homeowners complained of similar defects and dangers with American drywall.

One Florida family owned a home chosen for inspection. They were anxious to see the results. They were bitterly disappointed. A phone call to the agency to ask why follow-up tests weren’t conducted netted an unexpected answer: The agency couldn’t afford it.

The Chinese drywall investigation was not a complete success. The agency hit a great wall when it tried to pursue the manufacturers: The companies were in China, and they were untouchable, according to an attorney involved with other drywall claims. In contrast, though, the CPSC would have had jurisdiction over American manufacturers of defective drywall.

According to the report, the CPSC was unable to draw conclusions about the safety of American drywall, because it was unable to confirm that all of the drywall in the inspected homes was actually manufactured here. The only way to answer that question was through further investigation and documentation of the origin of the drywall, and …. No “and.” The report stopped there. When it came to the follow-up tests, the report offered an odd explanation: So few homes were affected, and the origin of the drywall wasn’t clear, and the agency had “resource constraints.”

Consumer advocates and homeowners are puzzled.

The inability to go further — or perhaps it was a lack of interest — has been echoed in other government decisions this year. In March, the CPSC reversed a recommendation, in direct conflict with a court-issued guideline, to remove the wiring from drywall homes, as it was a potential fire hazard. A month before that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would not move forward with a study on the long-term health effects of living in a home with the dangerous drywall. The study would take too long, would likely produce inconclusive results and would cost too much.

All of this is happening as Fort Bragg experiences terrible losses. Twelve infants have died, and one cause could be toxic drywall. But the CPSC won’t conduct chamber tests for the base.

The cost-benefit analysis must not have come out in the agency’s favor.

Source: ProPublica, “CPSC Report on U.S.-Made Drywall Raises More Questions than Answers,” Joaquin Sapien, 04/ 21/11