Chinese Drywall - A brief history and product information
Installed during the U.S. building boom of the mid- to late-2000s, defective drywall manufactured in China (Chinese Drywall) has prompted homeowners in dozens of U.S. states to evacuate their homes, mostly because of the noxious odors emanating from the drywall.
Drywall is made of gypsum plaster, which is then pressed between two thick sheets of paper. Builders worldwide use drywall when constructing the interior walls and ceilings of a house.
Chinese-produced drywall became popular as U.S. drywall supplies were depleted amid the U.S. building boom. Homeowners in Florida, Louisiana and Virginia have filed the most complaints to date about defective Chinese Drywall with the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As much as 500 million pounds of the drywall was estimated to have been imported into the United States between 2004 and 2008, and is estimated to have been installed in as many as 100,000 homes.
During manufacturing, some Chinese companies used unrefined “fly ash”– a residue found in coal-fired power plants – in their wallboard. The “fly ash” contains strontium sulfide, which can emit hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide in hot and humid conditions, contaminating a home’s air supply. People exposed to these gasses complained of symptoms consisting of sore throats, sinus irritations, coughing, wheezing and headaches.
Problems have also been reported in over a dozen other states including Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas.
How to Identify
Identification of the product includes a strong sulfur smell as the most indicative. Exposed copper wiring and/or HVAC equipment (such as the evaporator coil) in homes containing the product appear dark and corroded. Labels on the back of the drywall can also link it with manufacturers that were known to have used contaminated materials, such as Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum.
The presence of Chinese Drywall can also result in the failure of everything from computers and TVs to air conditioners and refrigerators, as electrical wiring and switches can become affected (tarnished). As can the silver on mirrors and personal jewelry.
Status of Chinese Drywall
On December 15th, 2011. A settlement had been announced with Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., one of the suppliers of Chinese made drywall, to repair over 4,000 homes that had problems stemming from their drywall. Claims against other companies involved with tainted Chinese drywall are still not settled.
Homeowners, insurers, contractors and many others sued nearly a decade ago to win judgments against and recoup costs from Chinese drywall manufacturers. In the spring of 2018, however, a federal judge referred thousands of cases back to the state courts where they were originally filed for litigation. The lawsuits proved complicated because, while drywall easily crosses borders, the court decisions rarely do. Collecting damages from the foreign companies proved difficult. Furthermore, little scientific evidence actually determined that Chinese drywall has definitively caused these problems.
What to do?
It is virtually impossible to determine the origin or manufacturer of installed drywall without removing sections of it (and even then, drywall is often poorly marked on the back or not marked at all). Since some imported drywall doesn’t appear to cause a problem, the best way to know if your house is at risk is the sulfur smell and by checking the copper in appliances for signs of corrosion. Tests on samples can then be conducted to confirm the presence of contaminants.
If your drywall does have a problem, there is little that can be done to alleviate it other than tearing out all the drywall out and replacing it.