Chinese Drywall ProblemsWhat Is Chinese Drywall?

During the U.S. construction boom of 2004-2007, many U.S. builders used drywall imported from foreign countries to meet demand. The need to import drywall was compounded by a shortage of U.S. drywall due to the rebuilding demand in the southeast after nine hurricanes hit Florida in 2004 and 2005, and hurricane Katrina caused widespread damage along the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Reports indicate that about 20 different companies imported drywall from China, which has been linked to various health and environmental problems. While not linked with any specific builder or community, it is estimated that Chinese drywall may have been used in the construction of as many as 100,000 homes and be the catalyst of what many call Chinese drywall problems.

What Are Chinese Drywall Problems?

While not all drywall imported from China has been found to be problematic, it has been associated with the emission of sulfurous gases such as carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. These gases cause noxious, “rotten-egg” like odors which worsen with increased heat and humidity. Further, these emissions have been linked to the corrosion of exposed metal surfaces in homes and various health problems such as irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, nose bleeds, runny noses, recurrent headaches, sinus infection, and asthma attacks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is currently conducting a 3-part investigation of: 1) health symptoms associated with the defective drywall, 2) electrical and fire safety issues raised by metal corrosion, and 3) the origin and distribution of the drywall. While the CPSC’s investigation is not complete, homeowners often report that symptomatic health problems lessen when away from home and return upon re-entry. Further, while there have been no reports of fire or electric shock yet, the CPSC is investigating safety concerns raised by the corrosion of electrical, gas service, and fire safety components. The CPSC has received reports of intermittent operation or failure of electrical appliances and devices which may be due to the corrosion of metallic components. The latest information on the CPSC’s investigation may be found at its web site:

In addition, concern has arisen that Chinese drywall may pose radioactivity risks, due to the presence of phosphogypsum. Phosphogypsum is formed as a radioactive byproduct of processing phosphate ore into fertilizer, and has been banned from use in U.S. construction since 1989. To date, however, testing has shown no radiation safety risk.
How Widespread Is The Problem?

So far, problems with Chinese drywall have been reported in over twenty six states, including Colorado and Texas.

How Can I Tell If My Home Is Affected?

While air sampling may be an effective means of determining the presence of defective drywall, homeowners need to be aware of potentially deceptive home testing kits and inspection offers. In fact, at least on State Attorney General’s office has warned of such practices. That state (Florida) has also issued the following self-assessment guide to help homeowners determine if their home is showing signs associated with defective Chinese drywall:

• Rotten-egg or sewer-like odors in the home or in certain rooms of the home: problems with the home’s hot-water and sewer systems should be ruled out.

• Premature failure of air conditioner evaporator coils: corrosion of the evaporator coil can result in leakage of Freon. The coils in many affected homes last two years or less, rather than the normal 10-20 years.

• Corrosion of copper Freon lines and other metallic surfaces: copper Freon lines exposed to gasses emitted by defective Chinese drywall appears charcoal or black rather than the normal red/brown/green patina, due to a chemical reaction with hydrogen sulfide. Similar corrosion may appear on any exposed copper, brass, or metallic plumbing fixtures, and even on silver jewelry.

• Markings on drywall: drywall is commonly stamped with the manufacturer’s name or country. Look for “Made in China,” “China,” or “Knauf Tianjin.” This requires cutting holes in walls, as the markings may only be found on the reverse side of the drywall. In addition, there may be multiple markings or none at all. Finally, the home may contain drywall from multiple manufacturers, and walls in those rooms with the strongest odors should be checked first.

• Corrosion of electrical wiring or air conditioning coils: again, corrosion due to defective Chinese drywall will give these components a charcoal or black appearance rather than the normal red/green/brown patina. A professional should check these areas due to the potential for electrical shock.

My Home is Affected! What Can Be Done About It?

There is simply no known treatment for defective Chinese drywall other than the complete removal and replacement of known or suspected source material. This is obviously a costly repair, and one of the reasons why Chinese drywall poses such a problem to homeowners. In addition, some homeowners have reported continuing symptoms after replacing defective drywall, leading to speculation that gasses may be absorbed into porous surfaces and re-emitted.

Affected homeowners have legal recourse in the face of these expensive repairs. Claims may exist against the manufacturers of defective Chinese drywall, the builders who installed it, and others involved in the manufacture, distribution and installation of the defective product. Homeowners who suspect their home may contain defective Chinese drywall should seek legal counsel immediately, as any potential claims will be subject to the applicable statute of limitations.

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