June 18, 2009
Author: Harris Martin (Email us at help@chinesedrywall.com)

In short, drywall imported from China which emits gases which corrode copper and metal surfaces, gives off a foul odor and can make you sick. Of course, not all drywall manufactured in China is tainted. Some defective drywall has no markings whatsoever and there are a few reported cases where defective drywall bears the name of a U.S. company. It is unknown whether such drywall was actually manufactured in the U.S. or made in China and re-branded here. One recent theory is that Chinese drywall was recycled in the U.S. and then used in our domestic product. Another possibility is that the U.S drywall is fine, however, it was cross-contaminated by Chinese drywall.

Most people are under the impression that Chinese drywall is limited to drywall measuring 1/2". This is incorrect. According to Lori A. Streit, Ph.D., from Unified Engineering, the same compounds found in Chinese drywall (e.g., strontium sulfide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide and carbonyl sulfide) have also been found in drywall measuring 5/8" (typically used in ceilings) and 1" drywall.


The most common theory is that the tainted drywall was manufactured in gypsum mines in China which used fly ash, a waste material that is a byproduct from power plants using coal. Coal fly ash can leak into the air and emit sulfur compounds.

Another theory is that Chinese drywall contains bacteria which is degrading iron and sulfur compounds to produce sulfurous odors. Drywall imported from China was kept on barges at sea for months awaiting permission to enter the United States. While at sea, the drywall was exposed to seawater. In fact, there are reports that the drywall was wet (and stunk) when unloaded from the ships. According to experts, if bacteria is in fact present, it is not significant enough to cause an odor.

Testing of drywall outer paper and the gypsum core has been found to release sulfur compounds. Thus, there are potential causes aside from the drywall itself. These include the treatment of the drywall or the outer paper with an fungicide or possibly contaminants in the adhesive that binds the paper to the drywall.


Irrespective of the source (which is still open to debate), preliminary analytical testing of Chinese drywall samples have revealed strontium sulfide (which is a known constituent of coal fly ash). See Public Health Statement regarding Strontium; Statement Regarding Health Effects.

Chinese drywall samples also revealed carbon disulfide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. See ATSDR regarding carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and hydrogen sulfide. See also, EPA Drywall Sampling Analysis dated May 7, 2009).

According to Dr. Patricia Williams, a University of New Orleans toxicologist, there is no question - highly toxic compounds have been found in Chinese drywall and prolonged exposure to these compounds can cause serious problems. Strontium sulfide may be dangerous to developing children; it affects bone growth. Chronic exposure to these gases may affect the central nervous system (including visual and sensory changes), cardiovascular system, eyes, kidneys, liver and skin. Infants, children, the elderly and infirm (particularly those with heart and lung disease and diabetes) may have an increased vulnerability to these gases and the particulates that are released from the drywall. The particulates from Chinese drywall may invade and adhere to other building materials in the home's structure and personal objects within the home. Translation - cross-contamination is a real concern and should be factored into any remediation protocol.

Nonetheless, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) continues to maintain that the levels found in Chinese drywall are not high enough to present “an imminent or chronic health hazard at this time.” It is not clear whether this finding takes into consideration long-term exposure and the combined exposure to multiple compounds. Click on Initial Material Analysis to see DOH report/results.

Dr. Streit recently conducted testing (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) for the DOH to isolate the particles in the drywall that may releasing the sulfur gases. A report is due out shortly.


For months, homeowners have been reporting physical ailments and symptoms including acne, asthma attacks, bloody nose breathing difficulty, coughing, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, hives, irritated eyes, nausea, nosebleeds, phlegm, rashes, runny nose, shortness of breath, sneezing, sinus problems, sore throat and urinary tract infections after being exposed to Chinese drywall. Please seek medical attention and contact your local health department to report these symptoms. See Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual.


Air Conditioner: Have you had repeated A/C problems? Have you replaced your evaporator coils? Does the copper tubing on the outside of your A/C look like this?

Wiring: Chinese drywall corrodes electrical wiring. Check the electrical receptacles in your walls to see if the wires are blackened. Pull off the electrical plate and look inside. Obviously, do not touch anything - you could get shocked. There should be a copper wire inside. The wires in the picture below have been corroded from Chinese drywall. The breaker panel should also be checked.

Smell: Does your home smell like rotten eggs or ammonia (sometimes a sweetish smell)? Is it more noticeable when entering your home and then seems to dissipate? The level of odor varies greatly in each home as does each person’s ability to detect the odor. Of course, the strength of the odor also depends on how much drywall was used in the home. Significantly, some homeowners report no smell, but their home clearly has Chinese drywall. In short, do not rely on your nose alone, particularly since many develop olfactory fatigue after being exposed to Chinese drywall.

Hundreds of millions of sheets of Chinese drywall were imported from 2004 to 2006, but Chinese drywall has recently been found in homes built or remodeled as early as 2001. Accordingly, this phenomenon cannot be explained solely by the shortage of American-manufactured drywall.

The presence of Chinese drywall has been reported in 14 states and is estimated to have been installed in over 100,000 homes in the United States. See Map. One must wonder - has any tainted drywall been found in China or Germany (which is where Knauf is based).


The specific sources are discussed in the Lab Page, but humidity and heat cause the sulfur in the tainted drywall to offgas (i.e., migrate into the indoor air), which not only creates a noxious odor, but corrodes copper and other metals. Chinese drywall is also friable, which means it is in a state where small particles can easily become dislodged with very little friction, thus enabling them to easily enter our lungs. For this reason, even after Chinese drywall is removed from your home, the toxic particulate will likely remain.

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