CDC finds no link between deaths, Chinese drywall

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it has found no link between tainted Chinese drywall and the deaths of 11 people exposed to the imported drywall in Louisiana, Florida and Virginia homes. The agency also said a long-term health study into exposure to Chinese drywall was not worth doing.

The CDC said in a report Monday that the people died without exception due to "preexisting chronic health conditions unrelated to imported drywall exposure." The findings by the Atlanta-based health agency back up previous findings by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CDC also said a long-term health study of the effects of exposure to Chinese drywall would not yield valuable information. The safety commission had asked the CDC to conduct the study.

Bernadette Burden, a CDC spokeswoman, said the agency determined the risk from exposure to Chinese drywall was too small to warrant spending large sums of money and years of study.

"There have been low concentrations of hazards, and many of those hazards are the same as those found in new construction material," she said. She added that the levels of sulfur compounds emitted from the drywall were so small that "it would be extremely difficult to tie them to actual health effects."

Large quantities of defective Chinese-made drywall were imported during a past housing boom and after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes five years ago. The drywall has been linked to corrosion in thousands of homes, mostly in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

The CDC found that seven of the 11 people who died had cancer and seven had heart problems. For the review, state medical examiners and the CDC probed 10 deaths in Louisiana and Florida — five in each state — and a single death in Virginia.

The deaths were reported to regulators as possibly being linked to drywall.

Still, federal regulators say the health risk of Chinese drywall remains a concern.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the safety commission, said "hundreds, if not thousands" of homeowners have reported problems with nosebleeds, respiratory problems and other symptoms that could possibly be linked to Chinese drywall.

Investigators have found a possible "synergistic effect" between hydrogen sulfide emitted from the Chinese boards and the typical traces of formaldehyde found in many homes that "can come together" to cause problems, Wolfson said.

Daniel Becnel, a New Orleans lawyer working for homeowners with Chinese drywall, questioned the adequacy of the CDC review into the 11 deaths because it was not based on autopsies.

"It seems to me the only way you can tell 100 percent is with an autopsy," he said.

But he agreed with the CDC, too. "I don't think there are any long-term effects from Chinese drywall, I really don't think so," he said. "You just have to get them out of the houses."

Regulators also are studying the fire risk Chinese drywall poses. Because the drywall causes corrosion, experts have said electrical wiring, fire alarms and fire sprinklers might not work properly.

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