WEST PALM BEACH — Florida officials will soon begin air-quality tests in homes to determine whether fumes emitted from Chinese-made drywall can make people sick, the state Health Department said Friday.
Agency spokesman Doc Kokol said the tests, which he hopes will begin in several weeks, are complex and have never been done before.
"This is new science; nobody has tested drywall like this," he said.
An Associated Press review of shipping records found more than 540 million pounds of plasterboard was imported from China between 2004 and 2008 to meet U.S. demand during the national housing boom. Hundreds of people nationwide are now complaining that the material emits fumes that make them sick. They claim it also corrodes copper pipes, blackens jewelry and silverware and ruins air conditioners.
Estimates indicate the drywall may be in more than 100,000 homes, more than 35,000 in Florida alone. The state Health Department has logged 265 complaints so far. Lawsuits against the Chinese manufacturers, builders and suppliers have been filed in several states, including Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Builders known to have installed the drywall include Lennar, Taylor Morrison, WCI, Transeastern, Ryland and Standard Pacific, plaintiffs attorneys said.
Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, where the drywall turned up in some homes rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, have asked for assistance with chemical testing from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.