In short, the term "Chinese Drywall" (which is also sometimes referred to as "Contaminated Drywall" or "Tainted Drywall") refers to drywall imported from China from 2001 to 2007.  Heat and humidity cause the drywall to release gases, which not only create a noxious odor, but they corrode copper and other metal surface, thereby damaging your air conditioner, electrical wiring, copper plumbing, appliances and electronics.  Corrosion of electrical wiring can hamper the effectiveness of your smoke detection and can create a risk of fire.  Chinese drywall is also very friable, which means it is in a state where small particles can easily become dislodged with little friction, thus enabling them to easily enter your lungs.  For this reason, even after Chinese drywall is removed, the toxic drywall particulate may remain unless property removed.   To date, there is no proven remediation protocol and, therefore, one should


While the material source of the problem remains known, the cause of the problem is unknown.  Initially, the most common theory was 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.  Samples of Chinese drywall tested by United Engineering, however, consisted of 5-15% organic material, which contradicts the theory that Chinese drywall was made of waste from coal fired power plants.   It is now believed that the tainted drywall from China comes from mined gypsum, not synthetic gypsum which is made from coal ash.    Mined gypsum contains high levels of strontium, which is visible as inclusions in electron scanning microscopy.   Another theory is that Chinese drywall contains bacteria which is degrading iron and sulfur compounds to produce sulfur 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.  A new theory focuses on the water source used to manufacture the drywall, which may not have been properly treated to remove fecal waste.  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, including contaminants in the adhesive that binds the paper to the drywall.  Additionally, the drywall or outer paper may have been treated with a fungicide after entering the United States.   No one has yet to determine whether tainted drywall has been found in China or Germany (where Knauf Gips, a large drywall manufacturer, is based).  


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) and pets 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.   Consumer Product Safety Commission recently acknowledged that the gases emitted from Chinese drywall could cause irritant effects.

In addition to health effects, corrosion of electrical wiring may hamper the effectiveness of smoke detectors, which presents a serious safety concern.   Low level arcing has also been observed in some homes with Chinese drywall, which could cause an electrical fire.


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 30 states and the District of Columbia and is estimated to have been installed in over 100,000 homes in the United States. Unfortunately, this does not paint an accurate picture as most affected homes have a mixture of safe and tainted drywall.

The majority of Chinese drywall is 1/2", but not always.   According to Lori A. Streit, Ph.D., from Unified Engineering, the same compounds found in problematic Chinese drywall and the same gases released there from have also been found in drywall measuring 5/8" (which is typically used in ceilings).


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.

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 this have been corroded from Chinese drywall.  The breaker panel should also be checked.  

Signs of an electrical problem include, a circuit breaker which frequently needs resetting without an apparent cause (particularly a GFCI or AFCI); lights that flicker without any apparent cause; bright flashes or sparks anywhere in your electrical system (this may indicate arcing conditions in the wiring);  buzzing from electrical systems, switch plates, dimmers and outlet covers that are discolored from overheating; and a smell from overheating plastic.


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