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Defective Chinese Drywall Problems FAQ

What is Chinese Drywall?

Between 2004 and 2007, thousands of homes throughout the US were built with drywall, or sheetrock, imported from China after a construction boom and repairs from several hurricanes led to a shortage in American drywall. It is estimated that about 500 million pounds of potentially defective Chinese drywall entered the US during this time.

How can I tell if my home has Chinese drywall?

Typically, the first signs that defective drywall may be present are a strong sulfur odor, like the smell of rotten eggs; frequent repairs to air-conditioning units, and damage to electrical wires and pipes. Other signs include:
  • Silver jewelry, wedding plates or silverware tarnishing, sometimes within weeks
  • An acidic smell throughout the home
  • Copper pipes turning black
  • Rapidly failing appliances, including refrigerators and stove top ovens
  • Electronic device failures such as video game systems, computer and TV
To be certain that you have Chinese drywall, locate a "Made in China" stamp or marking on the back of a sheet of the installed drywall. However, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) reported that many homes with defective drywall contained a mixture of Chinese drywall and drywall marked as made in USA. As well, DOH reported that one home with marked Chinese drywall showed none of the associated corrosion or odor problems.

Is there any immediate danger with Chinese drywall?

You should watch for potential electrical hazards, including:
  • Power outages, e.g., a circuit breaker which needs resetting frequently without any apparent cause;
  • Dim and/or flickering lights
  • Arcs/sparks: bright flashes or showers of sparks anywhere in your electrical system.
  • Sizzles/buzzes: unusual sounds from electrical system devices.
  • Overheating: parts of your electrical system, such as switch plates, dimmer switches, receptacle outlet covers, cords and plugs are discolored from heat or painful to touch.
  • Odors: pungent smells such as strong fumes from overheating plastic or electrical insulation materials.
  • Electrical shocks: including a mild tingle.
If you have any electrical or fire safety concerns, consult your local gas or electric supplier and a licensed electrician or building inspector, ASAP.

What are the health symptoms of defective Chinese drywall?

Chinese drywall homeowners have reported itchy eyes, sore throat, trouble breathing, persistent headaches, sinus infections, coughing, bloody noses, and asthma attacks. The long-term effects are not known, but could have serious implications (below).

Why is Chinese drywall causing these problems?

Initially, it was thought that corrosion and health problems reported by residents were caused by sulfuric gases from the defective drywall. Recently reported by the L.A. Times, phosphogypsum, a radioactive phosphorus substance, may be the cause of the problems. Phosphogypsum is banned in the US because prolonged exposure to this substance has been shown to increase the chance of the development of lung cancer. It is not banned in China.

Some defective drywall attorneys believe these problems are associated with the use of waste material in the manufacturing process and drywall was made using waste materials from scrubbers in coal-fired power plants. This waste material can leak into the air and release hazardous sulfur compounds.

Where is most of the defective drywall found?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates the number of households that have registered complaints about drywall is approximately 6,300. As of July 27, 2010, the CPSC had received 3,482 incident reports related to drywall from 37 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. More than 90% of reports are from five states – Florida (58%), Louisiana (19%), Mississippi (6%), Alabama (5%) and Virginia (4%).

What companies have been linked to defective Chinese drywall?

The first company to be associated with defective drywall was manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China. Many other building and supply companies have since been implicated, including Lennar Homes, the second largest building company in the nation (by volume); and possibly China-based exporter, Rothchilt International Ltd. Other companies include:
  • Taylor Morrison (London-based builder)
  • Engle Homes
  • L&W Supply Corp.
  • WCI Communities, Inc.
  • South Kendall Construction
  • Banner Supply
  • Knauf Gips
What are these companies doing to help homeowners with their defective drywall?

Lennar Homes is currently testing developments that it has built and is working with the Florida Health Department. Lennar and Taylor Morrison have also relocated a number of families while they replace the defective material.

Is the government doing anything to help Chinese drywall victims?

The CPSC is working to identify the links from foreign manufacturers to the US consumers in consultation with the Chinese government and the US Customs and Border Protection. Chinese authorities have offered to arrange for a Chinese official to travel to the United States in support of the CPSC investigation.

As of July 2010, CPSC says it continues to "investigate long term corrosion on electrical and fire safety components under our contracts with other federal laboratories. Initial results of analyses of components exposed to corrosive conditions are expected this autumn. Through this work, the Commission hopes to fine tune the Interim Identification Guidance and Interim Remediation Guidance (in conjunction with HUD), but the bulk of our scientific investigation is complete. This has been the largest Compliance investigation in agency history. To date, CPSC has spent over $5 million to investigate the chemical nature and the chain of commerce of problem drywall, and to issue the associated identification and remediation guidance to assist impacted homeowner.”

Fannie Mae has agreed to provide temporary mortgage relief to homeowners with Chinese drywall. But a number of homeowners have reported difficulty getting in touch with the appropriate person.  

Should I hire an inspector or air-quality tester and possibly remove the defective drywall?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advises homeowners to proceed with caution if they hire someone to test air quality or remove and replace defective drywall—many supposed inspectors are likened to snake oil salesmen. You should consult your State and local authorities if you have any questions or concerns about contractors or testing companies promising solutions to defective drywall issues.

CPSC says it is unaware of any state or federal agency that has validated a specific test for drywall to determine if it will emit corrosive gases in a building under normal conditions. Furthermore, it knows of no one who has validated a test capable of detecting drywall that emits reduced sulfur gases under the same conditions that occur in the homes that are currently exhibiting copper corrosion. 

DOH is not currently aware of any proven and effective treatment method other than removal and replacement of the suspected or known source material. Claims of treatment involving ozone, coatings, and air cleaners should be scrutinized for evidence of proven effectiveness. 

What is happening with Chinese drywall lawsuits?

A number of Chinese drywall class action lawsuits have been filed, naming defendants Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT), a Chinese drywall manufacturer; Knauf Group, the German parent company of KPT; Banner Supply, a Miami building supply company; and Rothchilt International Ltd., a China-based exporter.

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) issued an order centralizing re: Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2047 in June 2009. This order consolidated all federal Chinese drywall lawsuits filed on behalf of homeowners throughout the United States in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The plaintiffs in these lawsuits are seeking to recover damages for numerous costs that have affected homeowners, including repair and replacement of homes and appliances, property devaluation, and medical testing for illness related to Chinese drywall exposure.

If you think your home was built with defective Chinese drywall, you should consult an experienced Chinese drywall attorney.
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Last updated on Apr-10-10
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