Chinese Drywall

What is the concern?

In the past year or two homeowners nationwide have been complaining of drywall (also known as wallboard, gypsum board or plasterboard) that smells like rotten eggs. In several cases, homeowners have even had to leave their homes. The suspected drywall arrived at about two dozen ports around the country.

Where did it come from?

The drywall originated from a German-based company, Knauf Tianjin, which has subsidiaries in China. These subsidiaries manufactured the drywall from waste materials found on scrubbers within coal-fired power plants. From 2004 through 2006, after hurricane Katrina and other storms, the strain on the supply of American-made drywall required many builders to resort to international suppliers in order to fill the high demand. As a result, many distributors imported from the Knauf Tianjin Company. It is alleged that this issue effects more than 200,000 sheets of drywall used to make homes between 2004 and 2006.

What problems does it cause?

The waste materials used by Knauf Tianjin to make the drywall appear to contain iron sulfide, hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon disulfide. Many believe that humidity causes the sulfur in the drywall to give off a gas, which creates the noxious odor (rotten eggs). Besides the noxious odor, sulfur corrodes copper and is often evident by the copper blackening and flaking off. This drastically reduces the functional life expectancy of any copper building material, such as evaporator coils and tubing, which can ultimately cause an air conditioner to fail. Chinese drywall may also corrode copper plumbing, copper electrical wiring, and copper water lines. Metals such as chrome, brass and silver may also be affected. In homes with Chinese drywall, bathroom and kitchen faucets and drains are typically tarnished.

What is being done?

The building industry is being hit by a number of lawsuits, especially in Florida, where seven of the affected ports were located. A class action lawsuit has been filed against the makers, exporters and suppliers of Chinese drywall products that have been found to emit noxious odors, damage air conditioners, as well as other systems, and potentially lead to health problems. Health officials say that a definitive connection between the Chinese drywall and health problems has not been made, though over 50 complaints have been made to the Florida health department thus far.

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