Complaints about foul-smelling Chinese-made drywall that first emerged in a few dozen homes in Florida in January have spread to hundreds of homes in several states, fueling controversy over the Chinese import.
Fearing that the construction material is making them sick, homeowners are moving out of their houses, filing lawsuits and demanding help from lawmakers. Two U.S. senators have proposed a temporary ban on certain Chinese drywall imports. A Chinese government agency is also investigating, according to a Chinese news report.
“It seems most likely that it’s a nasty odor problem, as opposed to something acutely toxic,” said Morton Lippmann, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, who reviewed recent Florida health department’s findings on Chinese drywall for The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Lippmann isn’t involved in any of the lawsuits that have been filed against drywall manufacturers.
Other researchers said the sulfur-based gases coming from the drywall may exacerbate existing sinus issues and cause respiratory problems. The type of drywall at issue is made primarily from the naturally occurring mineral gypsum. Some of the drywall has been traced to a mine in the Shandong province of China, according to a spokeswoman for one drywall manufacturer, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., a subsidiary of a large German construction-material company, Knauf International GmbH, that used the mine.
“Sulfur compound gases, even at low levels, have been found to cause respiratory problems,” such as asthma, said Nachman Brautbar, a toxicologist and clinical professor emeritus at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, who also reviewed the health-department findings for the Journal, and isn’t involved in the legal dispute. “This clearly needs more study.”
Read Michael Corkery’s full article “Homeowner Problems With Chinese-Made Drywall Spread” in the Wall Street Journal (April 17 2009).