What is Chinese Drywall?
The term “Chinese drywall” refers to more of an event than drywall itself. Between 2001 and 2009, the United States went through a massive surge in development and construction demand. The demand was so great, that the US ran out of the materials needed to complete the projects and began outsourcing to other countries, including China. Unfortunately, what resulted was the import of tonnes of defective drywall that resulted in mold infestations and affected an estimated 60,000 – 100,000 homes.
What Caused the Shortage?
The shortage in materials was caused by devastating hurricanes that hit the United States Southeast regions in the early 2000’s and a simultaneous boom in the housing market. Both the rebuilding and the construction of new homes resulted in an estimated 550 million pounds of drywall being imported into the United States from China since 2006, with the majority of it originating from the primary manufacturer of contaminated drywall; Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin. The majority of the contaminated drywall from Knauf (an estimated 52 million pounds) was sent straight to New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina, while another 37 million pounds from the same company was shipped directly to Florida.
Health Concerns and Result
The defect in the drywall products caused them to emit large levels of sulfur gases, which not only negatively affected other materials in the home (turning copper green etc), but caused significant health issues for those exposed. According to a guide released by the CDC, homeowners that were exposed to the contaminated products experienced symptoms such as sore throat, coughing, asthma attacks, bloody noses, headaches and memory loss. Unfortunately, a number of unscrupulous characters began taking advantage of the widespread panic, and a number of fake home testing kits began popping up on the market. Similarly, a large number of remediation companies began cropping up and, an investigation found, over 90% of them were run by fake contractors with no licenses or experience.
Mold Growth and Sulfide Concerns
As mentioned before, the defective Chinese drywall emitted large amounts of sulfur gas, which erodes copper wiring, covers and any other mechanical component made of copper. This means plumbing systems, HVAC internal components, electrical wiring, and other functional elements of thousands of homes were compromised. On top of this, the intense humidity in the areas affected combined with the emissions led to a spike in mold growth in homes.
Should I be Concerned?
If you are experiencing symptoms listed by the CDC for either sulfur exposure or mold exposure, you should contact a home inspection specialist to check the indoor air quality of your living space. If you find mold, call a mold removal company in your area and they will inspect further. If defective drywall is found, it will need to be replaced. In either instance, you should contact both your landlord and insurance company to ensure that the costs are covered.