February, 2013
Washington Watch
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Congress Sends Contaminated Drywall Bill to President Obama’s Desk


Thanks in large part to bipartisan cooperation from Virginia's congressional delegation, the Drywall Safety Act of 2012 is headed to the president's desk to become law. The legislation sets chemical standards for domestic and imported drywall; establishes remediation guidelines for disposal of all drywall; and expresses a sense of Congress that China must be held accountable for the damage this product already has caused in communities across America.

The original legislation, H.R. 4212, was introduced by Representative Scott Rigell (VA-2) and passed the House of Representatives unanimously this summer. In December, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a longtime advocate for Chinese drywall victims, was instrumental in moving the legislation unanimously through the Senate with an amendment. The House of Representatives passed the measure on a strong bipartisan vote of 378-37 and sent the final bill to the president's desk.

"This is a bill about protecting American families — their health and financial well-being," said Rigell, co-chair of the bipartisan Contaminated Drywall Caucus, which has worked on legislation to address this issue since the beginning of the 112th Congress.

In October 2009, Senator Warner accompanied Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Tenenbaum to Hampton Roads to speak with families and tour several homes affected by drywall issues.

The full Hampton Roads House delegation and all members of the Contaminated Drywall Caucus were united in helping to achieve this legislative victory to protect Americans from the devastating effects of toxic drywall.

Once signed into law, the bill will:

  • Express a sense of Congress that the Chinese manufacturers need to make restitution to the victims.
  • Institute a labeling requirement so that defective drywall can be traced to its manufacturer.
  • Set chemical standards to limit the amount of sulfur that can be present in domestic and imported drywall, allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission two years to promulgate a rule pertaining to sulfur content.
  • Require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to update their remediation guidelines to prevent contaminated drywall from being reused or recycled.

Background on contaminated drywall:

  • Contaminated Chinese-manufactured drywall was imported and used in home construction from approximately 2001-2009. Some of that material was used in Hampton Roads construction.
  • Scientific studies have shown this drywall to cause a corrosive environment for fire alarm systems, electrical distribution systems, gas piping and refrigeration coils.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of contaminated Chinese drywall in more than 3,991 homes in 43 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.
  • The Chinese manufacturers, some of which are state-owned, have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
  • Reports from homeowners indicate that some contaminated drywall may be entering the recycling stream for use in new home construction or renovation.


NAHB Supports Amendment to Contaminated Drywall Safety Act

In December, the National Association of Home Builders issued a letter to Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, in support of the Vitter/Warner/Nelson amendment to the Contaminated Drywall Safety Act of 2012.

It read, "On behalf of the more than 140,000 members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), I am writing to express our support for the Vitter/Warner/Nelson amendment to H.R. 4212, the Contaminated Drywall Safety Act of 2012. We express sincere gratitude to the senators for carefully examining the structure of the legislation and offering improvements, which will result in a better and more targeted response to unsafe drywall.

The Vitter/Warner/Nelson amendment significantly improves H.R. 4212 by clarifying that the authority granted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission is narrowly tailored and that the voluntary standard adopted by the Commission will be consensus-based, having the full support of business stakeholders.

For these reasons, NAHB strongly urges the U.S. Senate to support the Vitter/Warner/Nelson amendment."

Source: National Association of Home Builders, www.nahb.org


Lead RRP Update:  Request for Information on Renovations of Public & Commercial Buildings

Renovations of homes and child-occupied facilities built prior to 1978 must be performed by certified contractors using lead-safe work practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently is in the process of determining whether renovation, repair and painting activities on public and commercial buildings might also create lead-based paint hazards. For those activities that do create lead-based paint hazards, the EPA intends to develop certification, training and work practice requirements as directed by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The EPA has opened a comment period to allow for additional data and other information to be submitted by the public and interested stakeholders. This comment period runs through April 1, 2013. More information on this request for public comment, including instructions for providing your comments, can be found in the Federal Register notice at www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/12/31/2012-31532/lead-renovation-repair-and-painting-program-for-public-and-commercial-buildings-request-for.

In addition, the EPA plans to hold a public meeting on renovations in and on public and commercial buildings June 26, 2013. The EPA will publish more details on this public meeting in the Federal Register in the spring of 2013.