Inez Tenenbaum, US Consumer Product Safety Commission chief, checks an all-terrain vehicle in Shanghai last week during the 3rd Biennial US-China Consumer Product Safety Summit. Tenenbaum is working closely with Chinese product safety officials in an investigation into drywall imported from China. [AP]
An investigation that spans the globe into the cause of widespread illness in the United States allegedly from contaminated drywall imported from China continues, and initial clues to answers will be revealed later this week.
Safety officials from both China and the US are working together in the probe and the visiting US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) will release results of initial testing of both Chinese- and US-made drywall this week, with two more reports next month.
The joint probe aims to prevent the problems from recurring, China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said in a statement yesterday.
Inez Tenenbaum, chairperson of the CPSC, said yesterday that the Chinese government has provided technical help and are working with the US to determine the cause of the problem.
"We are greatly appreciative," Tenenbaum said. "We feel the cooperation from the AQSIQ is very strong in terms of continuing to investigate the problem with us."
Thousands of US homeowners complained last year that contaminated drywall from China sickened them or damaged their houses. The allegedly problematic drywall, also known as wallboard or gypsum board, was imported between 2004 and 2008 when the housing industry was booming and supplies were tight in the US. The drywall has also been used in homes rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.
The drywall is believed to cause a chemical reaction, releasing fumes that reek like rotten eggs.
US homeowners, mostly in the southeastern regions, blamed the drywall for health woes, such as itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, persistent coughing and bloody noses as well as corrosion of electrical wiring and home appliances.
Tests of Chinese-made drywall by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint -- compounds not found in samples of US-made drywall. The EPA report did not draw any conclusions about health risks or whether the boards could be damaging wires in homes.
Tenenbaum also called on Chinese drywall companies "to examine carefully their responsibilities to US consumers who are suffering from problems in their homes and to do what is fair and just in each case if their products are involved".
Also yesterday, China and the US agreed to further cooperate to ensure consumer product safety by building safety measures into design and manufacturing standards.
Toys and other children's products, all-terrain vehicles, electrical products, lighters and fireworks will receive special attention.
"From the design, production to distribution of consumer products, it's a chain of not only interests but also responsibility," AQSIQ deputy director Wei Chuanzhong said, after finishing the six-day 3rd Biennial US-China Consumer Product Safety Summit.
He said China will do more to improve manufacturers' awareness of product safety and quality requirements.
Tenenbaum said CPSC will also hold US importers more accountable as members of the supply and distribution chain. A new handbook for importing safer consumer products will be compiled, she said.
US importers should also ensure that their suppliers are aware of the federal product safety requirement, she said.
Both sides also agreed to have the 4th US-China Consumer Product Safety Summit in 2011 in the US, and a similar summit involving China, the US and the EU next year in Shanghai.