Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Radioactive Drywall and A Failure of Governance

Recently a friend and I were discussing our frustration with the presidential candidates and the broken political and economic institutions in our country.

My friend, Craig, suggested that there are issues that everyday citizens can identify with that illustrate effectively that the system is bankrupt. These issues should point to the need to enact change in our political system.

Craig provides 2 compelling examples of how the government has failed to protect human security through its unwillingness to take preventive actions against radiological contamination.

The first example is the Carrington effect.The Carrington effect could wipe out all life on planet earth as power disruptions lead to nuclear reactor and spent fuel pool meltdowns in all impacted areas.

The second example concerns the contaminated Chinese drywall. The Chinese drywall debacle illustrates both (1) the willingness of governments to dispose of radioactive waste by "recycling" it in consumer products and (2) the failure of governments to test consumer products for contamination (see EPA's discussion of "free release" of "low level" radioactive scrap metal ).

I am including Craig's written account of these examples that should awaken citizens everywhere to our bankrupt governance institutions:


There are concrete issues that most of America can readily understand and are already apprehensive about.

For instances:

** Most people (and all sane people) want to put an end to nuclear power --before nuclear power (and the next big solar flare "Carrington event") puts an end to civilization.

But: right after the 3/11/11 events in the Fukushima Daiichi complex, not only did Obama double down on backing new nuke plants with federal guarantees, but he dispatched Hillary Clinton to Japan to make sure we'd be importing plenty of their seafood. Obviously, the Republicans would do the same thing.

** How about there being no inspection of many categories of potentially dangerous goods from China --even after years of scandal. How about thousands of dead family pets? How about trying this issue on for size:

Might a [independent candidate] Jill Stein administration improve upon:

In the U.S., federal authorities said there was no one authority responsible for ensuring that imported drywall meets American standards.

Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Joe Martyak said his agency asks U.S. Customs and Border Protection to inspect items for which there are mandatory testing requirements, such as children's toys. But there are no such conditions for drywall, he said. 

In interviews, officials with U.S. Customs, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce all said their agencies were not responsible for testing drywall. ---

But in China, businesses began turning to phosphogypsum, in part because local governments were eager to get rid of bulging stockpiles of the waste byproduct.

Huge phosphogypsum dump sites can be seen in all corners of China. Near the banks of the Yangtze River in central China's Wuhan area, raw phosphogypsum is spread over 20 acres and packed 65 feet deep into the ground. The smell of sulfur permeates the air. Workers at the site said the material was given away to anyone willing to pay the transportation costs, a mere $1.75 per ton.

No one knows how much phosphogypsum board from China was shipped abroad. But in 2006, Chinese exports of drywall to the U.S. totaled a record 503 million pounds valued at more than $25 million, according to Chinese customs' statistics. That's enough for 32,000 homes.


Not only does the stuff corrode metals where it's used, it's radioactive --with radon emitting radium!



"Consumers should remove "all possible problem drywall" and replace their electrical wiring, sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, according to new guidelines issued Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

"We're starting now, with a quick letter to our Congressmembers outlining a couple of very basic principles about radioactive waste. These may seem elementary, but trust us, 98% of your Congressmembers have never heard them before, and certainly not from the kind of numbers your actions can produce. 

Take this first step here, now. It's important:


  1. How does our government fail so badly?

    I have a realtive with a condo in Florida that was built with the bad drywall from China. They took the offer of the developer to replace it in their condo and also replaced a lot of metal in the walls etc.. that was damaged. Not everyone in the complex took that offer so some have replaced drywall others haven't. So Radon from some of the condos may impact those that replaced their drywall. What a mess! Needless to say they will never be able to sell it for what it should be worth. I will be forwarding your blog on to that relative I'm doubt they knew about the Radon issue.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.