Chinese Drywall – a Rising Health, Safety, and Home Value Threat

Over 550 million pounds of potentially contaminated drywall was imported into the U.S. from China since January 2006. That’s enough to build 36,000 new homes.

Chinese drywall damage GoToby.comPalm Coast, Florida – April 3, 2009 – Contaminated Infant formula, pet food, and lead paint on children’s toys Imported from China have raised health and safety alerts in the recent past. The latest worry will probably be the most costly. Since January 2006, over 550 million pounds of potentially contaminated drywall has been imported from China into the U.S. (300,000,000 pounds into Florida alone), in response to a critical building materials shortage. Recent findings indicate that at least some of this drywall contains materials that emit sulfur particles, corroding air conditioning coils, exposed electrical wiring and other metal surfaces. Some homeowners have complained of health issues; respiratory complications, nose bleeds, dizziness, etc.
The magnitude of the Chinese drywall problem has not yet been plumbed. But Chinese drywall has been imported into the U.S. since at least 2002. Florida, particularly South Florida, provided the main ports of entry into the U.S., but complaints of defective drywall have come from several states. Consumer group America’s Watchdog’s environmental testing has found defective drywall in 41 states. In addition to Florida, those states include Virginia, California, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Texas. So far, there are no known cases in Flagler or Volusia Counties, but since January ’06, 21,000,000 pounds of drywall entered the U.S. through the port at Canaveral. It’s unlikely that this material went to South Florida.
The problem stems from the acute shortage of building materials, particularly between 2002 and 2006 precipitated by the real estate building boom in combination with the need for materials to rebuild hurricane damaged structures. As a result, several buildings were constructed or repaired with drywall imported from China. Property owners report corrosive damage to metallic surfaces, most prominently air conditioning condenser coils, plumbing fixtures, and copper electrical wiring. A rotten egg smell and health issues; bleeding nose, respiratory distress, weakness, etc. have also been reported.
With real estate prices already hitting bottom, homeowners are faced with claims against builders, some of whom no longer exist. Further, they are unlikely to easily sell properties suspected as being "tainted" with potentially damaging materials.
The solution is not cheap. All walls and ceilings must be removed (to the studs) and replaced. Components containing metals must be inspected and replaced as necessary. Then there is the cost of reinstalling new drywall, ceiling insulation, wall coverings, etc. One affected couple had to move out for six months while the drywall in their home was replaced. Even though repairs are completed, it is unclear whether or not the house will be forever tainted with the Chinese drywall stigma?
The builders are not the bad guys here. In fact, it was the proactive actions of home builder Lennar that brought the issue to light. Lennar has been working with its customers to mitigate the drywall problems. Even bankrupt WCI Communities has set aside an $11 million reserve account to mitigate Chinese drywall damages. But despite builders’ intentions, lawsuits will flood the courts. Class actions suits have already been filed. The main target of the suits so far has been Knauf Plasterboard, the company responsible for importing much of the drywall.
If history is a guide, the legal battle will take years. Homeowners may have to move into other quarters for the duration while mortgage payments, taxes, association fees, insurance, etc. will still have to be paid. The lawyers will be the only winners. Property owners may be best served with smaller (non-class action) litigations, perhaps involving only a single community. Such suits typically settle much sooner according to David Durkee, a Coral Gables attorney who advocates the strategy.
Complicating the issue, there are no Federal standards relating to drywall. If you think you may be a victim of Chinese drywall installation, visit the Florida Department of Health website at:
6 replies
  1. elmer Stainbrook
    elmer Stainbrook says:


    Is it not interesting that our "o so liberal" Daytona rag never took the time to print this info. They seem to prefer negative reporting rather than info that will help the public. Thanks Toby

  2. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    Poor quality materials

    The Chinese have been manufacturing many consumer products for American companies and using shortcuts and substitutions of material ingredients to increase their profits. Most companies were apparently totally focused on the physical outward appearance and specifications being unaware of the flaws in the material. I, for instance, purchased chest waders and knee boots that failed in a year from cracks in the rubber. Knee boots from from Walmart and the chest waders from LLBean. LLbean gave me another pair which also failed in a year then finally refunded the cost. I have been following China on the web site and have come to realize the extent of the crookedness problem in China. All of this reveals the flaws also in the Quality Control functions ofthe American companies.

  3. Jim Sheehan
    Jim Sheehan says:

    Testing drywall

    Good question by Joe. Is there a way to test the drywall? With the amount of houses that were built in Palm Coast during the ’02-’06 boom, there’s got to be some this drywall here.

  4. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    Defective Chinese Drywall

    The defective Chinese drywall debacle has been making news for months now, with homeowners plagued by sulfur fumes that smell like “rotten eggs” and cause air conditioning coils to corrode. Residents complain of sinus and respiratory ailments, eye and skin irritation, persistent runny or bloody noses, headaches, and asthma. Some situations were so severe that residents had to vacate their homes. In some cases, victims have been harassed by builders into signing unfair, one-side remediation agreements. The issues surrounding defective Chinese drywall are confusing and worrisome. Here is a good blog that has been providing emerging and valuable information on the problems:

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