Microwaves, refrigerators, computers, and smoke detectors are failing all across the United State. Worse still, people are showing up to the doctor’s office complaining of headaches, trouble sleeping, and nose bleeds. Both issues with home appliances and personal health problems can be attributed to Chinese drywall.
Normally, when a contractor builds a home in the U.S., they acquire drywall from a native source. However, from 2004 to 2007 the housing market not only thrived but exploded, creating a shortage in drywall.
This prompted the use of drywall imported from China. Sometimes referred to as contaminated drywall or tainted drywall, Chinese drywall has been contaminated with waste materials.
Florida appears to have been hit the hardest. Florida’s high humidity causes the Chinese drywall to smell like sulfur or rotten eggs. The fumes from the drywall cause damage to surrounding structures and are the basis for many health-related problems.
The housing boom and shortage of U.S. manufactured drywall cannot fully explain why Chinese drywall was imported. Houses built as early as 2001 have been found to contain Chinese drywall, three full years before the increase in the housing market. In addition to Florida, Chinese drywall has been found in 29 other states including North Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 U.S. homes have Chinese drywall within their structures. In 2006 and January through February 2007, according to shipping records, enough Chinese drywall was imported into the United States during those 14 months for a minimum of 50,000 homes.
The drywall fumes cause copper and other metals to corrode and oxidize. The corrosion of metals interferes with home air conditioning and heating, internal electrical wiring, plumbing, common household appliances, and electronics. There is a risk of fire associated with the deterioration of wiring within smoke detection systems, and the Chinese drywall is very brittle. When removed from an environment, microscopic pieces of the drywall are loosened into the air and find their way into lungs, similar to asbestos materials.
Some of the health problems related to Chinese drywall are respiratory problems, typically bleeding noses, irritated sinuses and eyes, dry throat, incessant coughing, an onset of asthma, and sleep apnea.
General signs and symptoms of a home that contains Chinese drywall include a rotten egg, sulfur, or melting plastic smell, air conditioning units and furnace coils corroding, corrosion of pipes, personal jewelry and even guitar strings. If lights flicker on and off for no apparent reason, if a circuit breaker needs reset often and for no apparent reason, if sparks appear anywhere along the home’s electrical system, or if there is a buzzing sound, the home may contain Chinese drywall.
Several class action lawsuits are currently underway concerning Chinese drywall, though spokespeople from China wish to make it known that not all drywall from their country is tainted with said waste materials. Many state health departments are looking into the situation to determine whether there is an actual health risk with the drywall. The U.S. EPA in May of 2009 determined that the imported drywall in question does contain among other substances sulfides, formaldehyde, various metals, and water soluble chlorides.