WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance annoucnes a hearing on the health and product safety issues associated with imported drywall.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C. - I would like to welcome everyone here today, and express my regret for not being in attendance. I would also like to thank Senator Pryor for calling this hearing and investigating this disturbing issue.
A house is a substantial investment for any family. But even more than that, it is a place where people should feel safe, where dreams are made, and great memories secured forever.
For homeowners who have discovered tainted drywall surrounds them everyday – their dreams have become a nightmare.
Families have seen their investments plummet, their health endangered, and their worries escalate. It is time that those responsible for these problems are held accountable.
The homebuilders, drywall installers, and drywall importers will all point to the manufacturers as the cause of the problem. There will be litigation between all parties, of that I am sure.
But my main concern is with the individual homeowners who have nowhere to turn and very little recourse. What happens to them? Who makes sure they are protected and that they have a place to go? They cannot be left out in the cold.
New homes come with an implied warranty of habitability. If the builder of a home cannot deliver on this simple contract, they must be taken to task.
I also want to highlight my serious concern with how we assess the safety of imported products.
Problems with tracking the source of this tainted drywall are alarming and have unnecessarily delayed the full investigation.
In this era of modern packaging and computerized tracking, there is no reason that all products should not have some sort of tracking identifier that can expedite a recall if there is a threat to human health.
I look forward to hearing the testimonies and discovering what our federal and state agencies are doing to address this important issue and help families in need.
Senator Mark PryorChairmanU.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
The product at issue today – Chinese drywall -- creates new challenges for our subcommittee, the full committee, and the federal agencies charged with protecting consumers from harmful products.
Chinese drywall was imported in large volumes during the height of the building market and used extensively in Florida and Louisiana following the devastating hurricanes of 2005.
In reviewing complaints against Chinese drywall we are grappling with a potentially dangerous embedded product – built into the very fiber of hundreds of family homes. Apartments, homes and even mansions built with some Chinese drywall may be making the residents sick rather than providing a place of home sanctuary. This crisis is a double threat to home owners as it destroys the value of a family’s largest investment.
In early 2008, homeowners in Florida and Louisiana began complaining of a peculiar odor – described as a rotten egg smell – that was permeating their houses, and of serious metal corrosion including air conditioning units that had turned black with corrosion within two years after new construction. Residents of these homes also reported health problems that included bloody noses, recurrent headaches, irritated eyes and skin, and asthma attacks.
As many residents reported that their symptoms abated after leaving their homes, investigators began examining products in the homes as the potential cause.
Florida health officials and homebuilders eventually narrowed down the cause of these problems to an unlikely source: drywall imported from China used for home construction.
While there are several theories about the root of the Chinese drywall problem, we are here today to establish for the record the likely cause of this health and economic threat, as well as the scope of the Chinese drywall crisis. More importantly, we will hear how our state and federal agencies are responding. We will work to complete a record to see if there are any steps we need to take to make sure that this situation does not happen again.
The impact on people’s lives is immense, both financially and emotionally. I implore all the parties involved to always consider the well-being of the innocent people who have been evicted from uninhabitable homes. I congratulate those homebuilders who have begun taking remedial action in the affected homes. The courts and the all the parties involved need to quickly develop a solution so that these families have a safe place to call home.
I want to welcome Senators Bill Nelson and Mary Landrieu to the subcommittee as they have been extremely active on this issue and I look forward to hearing their views as well as the witnesses’ testimony.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Mary L. LandrieuU.S. SenatorLouisiana
Witness Panel 2
Lori SaltzmanDivision DirectorOffice of Health Sciences, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Dr. Michael McGeehinDivision DirectorNational Center for Environmental Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Elizabeth SoutherlandActing Deputy DirectorOffice of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. David KrauseState ToxicologistFlorida Department of Health
Richard J. KampfFlorida Homeowner
Randy NoelPresidentReve, Incorporated