Indicators of Chinese Drywall

During the housing boom, more than 500 million pounds of possibly defective Chinese gypsum board was imported to the United States. Several sources estimate that enough material to build around 100,000 homes. The discovery of this product in your home or building may be one the largest issues since asbestos, lead based paints, and polybutylene piping.

In 2004 there was a shortage of gypsum board, because of the housing boom. Hurricane Katrina made the gypsum board shortage even worse, with desperate homeowners in the Gulf States wishing to rebuild their homes. U.S. homebuilders had already been importing Chinese drywall. Katrina accelerated the importation of this product. As a result contractors were forced to source materials from wherever possible. In parts of Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, DC Metro areas, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and the Western Provinces of Canada this product was introduced. The use of Chinese gypsum board was not for price or quality reasons, but purely caused by supply. Most of this product is thought to be in homes built between 2004 and 2007. Shipping records indicate that in 2006 alone, enough Chinese gypsum board was imported to build 340,000 homes.

To date, most of the gypsum board complaints have come from southern states, where a warm, humid climate encourages the emission of sulfur fumes. It is likely that gypsum board used in drier, cooler areas of the country, it could be years before homeowners begin seeing the problems associated with the material.

Gypsum board made in China includes several chemicals and compounds not found in gypsum board from other areas. The differences are the result of manufacturing and environmental reasons that are inherent in China. Chinese drywall is manufactured from the waste in coal plants, where the material that would not burn is made into drywall. The result of these chemicals and compounds is the slow release of gases from the drywall into the home’s air. The gases found in Chinese drywall, including strontium sulfide and hydrogen sulfide, are corrosive to copper and other metals and may cause health effects.

Gypsum board is made with fly ash – a waste product of coal burning – could possibly provide a clue. The process of “scrubbing” the smokestack emissions creates calcium sulfate, or gypsum, which can then be used to make drywall. In the U.S., gypsum board is also made from fly ash, but the material is taken from the smokestack, where it is scrubbed. This produces a cleaner product. But in China, the fly ash may have been obtained before it made its way to the smoke stack, according to the Associated Press research studies, this creates a “less refined” product.

Chinese drywall reportedly emits sulfur fumes that produce a “rotten eggs” odor. These fumes have been associated with respiratory and sinus problems. There is a great concern that the possibility of Chinese drywall is emitting excessive amounts of hydrogen sulfide fumes and ammonia gas, which can cause extreme irritation, unconsciousness and perhaps death.


o A home, condominium, or commercial building built or remodeled after 2000, but more predominant between 2004 to 2007.

o A rotten egg, sulfur-type, or acidic type smell in the building.

o Continuous failures of their air conditioning coils and HVAC units.

o Noticeable corroded, or black electrical wiring in their wires for properties built or remodeled after 2001.

o Building occupants and owners who have experienced mild to severe upper respiratory problems, nose bleeds, headaches, or other potentially serious medical conditions.

o Oven, or stove elements, or refrigerator coils may have failed in their homes or condo. A number of times.

o Silver jewelry or silver plated utensils may be tarnished.

o Have metals in your home, such as door hinges, doorstops, pipes, bathroom fixtures blackened.

o Corners of mirrors blackening

o Does any of the drywall in your home or building have “Knauf”, “Tianjin”, made in China, ASTM C36 stamped on the back.

In some limited preliminary research the Florida Department of Health has observed some drywall in several homes with no discernable markings. The origin of the unmarked drywall is unknown. The Department of Health also observed that homes marked Chinese drywall also contained drywall as made in the USA. It is unknown at this time how many sheets of the suspect drywall can cause problems. The Department of Health did observe at least one home with marked Chinese drywall with none of the associated corrosion or odor problems. Possibly, the bottom line should really be “does my home or building have any corrosion problems?”

At this time, no one knows if people exposed to Chinese gypsum board face long-term health consequences. The Florida Department of Health says more testing is needed to determine future health concerns. The Centers of Disease Control says prolonged exposure to compounds found in the gypsum board, especially high levels of carbon disulfide, can cause breathing problems, chest pains and death: as well as affecting the nervous system.

Due to the extensive nature of the toxic gypsum board threat to the citizens of Florida both Congressmen, Robert Wexler and Senator Bill Nelson have introduced legislation in Congress that would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to study and establish an immediate ban on any gypsum board that poses a safety hazard. It is estimated that over 35,000 homes in Florida could contain this harmful material. It may take years for this issue to sort out all the details, potential risks and liabilities.