Residents living in homes constructed during the housing boom earlier this decade may be surrounded by a potentially home- and health-threatening compound. Determining the risk is fairly simple; the remedy is likely more complex.
Increasing reports nationwide indicate that more than 500 million pounds of drywall shipped from China to the United States between 2004-06 contains potentially toxic sulfur compounds believed to be responsible for damaging hundreds of homes, creating possible health problems and prompting a string of lawsuits against builders and drywall manufacturers. Experts believe there was enough of this drywall to build between 50,000-100,000 homes.
“Homeowners who have found this drywall in their homes say it puts out a strong sulfur odor that smells like rotten eggs,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies. “If the smell isn’t bad enough, the sulfur gas has corroded coils on air-conditioning units and other metal items inside the home, including copper wiring inside electrical outlets.”
Some builders who used the imported drywall have addressed the issue by removing it from affected homes and replacing it with new drywall. However, many other homeowners with reported problems have had no resolution. The majority of known affected homes appear to be in South Florida, but homes in several other states could be at risk.
“We polled our members and nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they had never heard of Chinese-made drywall and 94 percent said they did not know where the drywall in their home was produced,” Hicks said.
If a builder does offer to remove the drywall from an affected home, homeowners should first consult an attorney to make sure the proper remediation protocol is implemented and that they will be protected in the event remediation is unsuccessful or they experience any long-term health issues. Homeowners are advised to avoid signing any release of liability against the builder.
“Just replacing the drywall might not be enough to fix this problem,” Hicks cautioned. “If your builder offers to replace the drywall, ask if they’ll also replace materials like carpet and insulation, as these might also be contaminated. There is also concern that corroded electrical wiring could pose a fire hazard, so that might need to be replaced as well. Once the drywall has been replaced, all the dust in your home should be removed with a HEPA air scrubber.”
Studies are still being done to determine possible health issues, but many homeowners are concerned about the potential effects of long-term exposure to the drywall.
“If the gas can corrode metals, imagine what it could conceivably be doing internally to people living with it,” Hicks said. “Until it’s confirmed that the drywall poses no health risks, consumers who live in homes built earlier this decade should take immediate action to determine if their home contains this potentially toxic stuff.”
Some home inspection companies rated on Angie’s List have begun adding drywall
testing to their list of available services. In addition to the smell, homeowners may be tipped off to the presence of the imported drywall by a black coating on air-conditioning units, copper wiring inside electrical outlets or other household metals.
“If you suspect your home contains this drywall, call in a professional to be sure,” Hicks said. “A well-qualified home inspector can do this for you and likely get you a definitive answer within a week – or sooner if a visual inspection is all that’s needed. If you’re buying a home built in 2004 or after, be sure to check out the drywall before you close.”
Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum Co. are among the known manufacturers of the product and have been targeted in various lawsuits. Lennar Corp., Aubuchon Homes, Meritage Homes, Ryland Homes, Standard Pacific Homes, Taylor Morrison and WCI Communities are all builders confirmed to have used drywall imported from China.
Hicks has advice for those considering purchasing a home manufactured during the time the drywall was predominantly used.
“Ask the seller for full disclosure of any repairs done to the home and if they have had to replace any appliances or the air-conditioning system.”
Tips to determine if your home has Chinese-made drywall:
*1,410 Angie’s List members took the poll. Responses are representative of Angie’s List members but not the general public.
- Your home was built between 2004-06: There was a shortage of drywall during this period, so more than 500 million pounds was shipped in from China.
- Your home has a foul smell: Homeowners with Chinese-made drywall complain of a strong odor of sulfur, or what smells like rotten eggs.
- You notice metal and copper corroding: Chinese drywall is reported to corrode metal and copper, notably air-conditioning coils and electrical wiring, with a black coating.
- You identify your drywall as made in China: Some affected drywall will state it is made in China. Other Chinese drywall bears the mark of manufacturers, including Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum Co.
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