Historically, builders used drywall (a/k/a sheetrock, gypsum board or wallboard) that was manufactured in the United States for residential construction. However, during the construction boom years of 2002-2007, a shortage of domestic drywall forced many builders to purchase product that was manufactured in China. “Chinese drywall” was installed in new construction across the country, predominantly in Florida.
In late 2008, when the Florida Department of Health (“DOH”) learned about problems potentially caused by Chinese drywall, it commissioned a study. Homeowners told the DOH that the drywall emits a sulfur-like smell and corrodes copper wiring, causing electrical appliances to fail. Some homeowners have also complained about respiratory problems, which they believe the Chinese drywall causes.
Having received more than 100 complaints, the DOH tested Chinese drywall samples, which were collected in January of 2009. Last week, the DOH released the results of its study. It concluded that, when heated, the samples emitted a sulfurous odor. The DOH also reported that sulfide gases corroded copper coils in an air conditioner of at least one Florida home, containing Chinese drywall.
The DOH report confirmed that the drywall contained trace levels of strontium sulfide, a material that can emit corrosive gases in humid air. State toxicologist, Dr. David Krause, acknowledged that the DOH must conduct more testing in order to determine whether strontium sulfide caused the odor and contributed to the corrosion. Krause also noted that additional testing, which could take several months to complete, is required to determine whether the drywall poses a human health hazard. Thus, the scope and severity of the problems allegedly linked to Chinese drywall have not yet been definitively ascertained. In the interim, lawsuits are being filed in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana. Homeowners in Mississippi, Virginia and California also have reported problems with Chinese drywall.
The DOH’s webpage dedicated to this issue is attached here.