WASHINGTON The U.S. government recommended on Friday that homeowners remove foul-smelling drywall, much of it Chinese-made, and replace electrical items and plumbing corroded by the key construction material.
The interim guidelines, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, follow complaints in a handful of states that Chinese drywall emitted rotten-egg smells and damaged metal in homes.
Some homeowners also say they have suffered nose bleeds, headaches and rashes as a result of the product.
HUD and the CPSC specifically advised consumers to rid their homes of the problematic drywall and replace affected electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
"Our investigations now show a clear path forward," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a press release. "We have shared with affected families that hydrogen sulphide (from the drywall) is causing the corrosion."
CPSC said it received more than 3,000 consumer complaints of health problems and metal corrosion in homes with the Chinese drywall that were newly-built or renovated from 2001 through 2008.
The top ten sulphur-emitting drywall samples tested for the agencies came from China, with some of the samples having emission rates of hydrogen sulphide 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall tested, according to the press release.
Chinese drywall produced during 2005 and 2006 showed high sulphur emissions compared to non-Chinese drywall, the agencies said. But several Chinese drywall panels manufactured in 2009 demonstrated a marked decrease in sulphur emissions when tested, compared to the 2005-2006 samples.
"This does not imply that all Chinese drywall or that only Chinese drywall is associated with these (corrosion) problems, but that among homes with the characteristic corrosion, Chinese drywall is a corroborating marker for the characteristic problems," an agency staff report said.
HUD and CPSC said their investigation will provide a strong foundation for U.S. lawmakers as they consider providing financial relief for affected homeowners.
In December, the federal government said local governments could use funds from HUD's community block grants to battle the drywall problem.
(Editing by Paul Simao)