Home sick: Alleged ill effects from Chinese drywall

When thousands of Americans believe a product is making them sick, often that product gets recalled.

But in this case, it’s not so easy. The product is not a toy or tainted food — it’s an entire wall, of a living room, a bedroom or a bathroom. The walls are made with a kind of drywall, also known as “sheet rock” or “plasterboard.”

And what makes a recall nearly impossible is that the drywall was manufactured overseas, where American consumer agencies have no jurisdiction.Here’s the story: between 2004 and 2007, the United States had a drywall shortage, mostly because of a building boom but also a series of hurricanes that wreaked havoc in the South. Chinese manufacturers capitalized on the shortage by exporting millions of sheets of drywall to the U.S. — enough to build approximately 61,000 average-sized houses.

Some homeowners with the Chinese drywall soon began to complain of respiratory problems. Appliances began to fail. And the homeowners found themselves caught between a rock and the hard facts of the global economy.

As part of our series, The Watch List,  in which we keep an eye on the agencies who are supposed to keep an eye out for us, Need to Know brings you this report, in cooperation with the independent investigative journalism group ProPublica, along with investigative reporter Aaron Kessler.

 
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Comments

  • Stephens

    If you have Chinese Drywall(CDW) be sure to visit the Victims site at: http://www.victimschinesedrywall.com

    Discuss CDW issues with other Victims of CDW at: http://cdwvictims.webs.com/app...

    Thanks to PBS, Propublica and the Herald Tribune for realizing the importance of this disaster that has destroyed the health, homes and finances of thousands of American families over the last 2 years. Stop toxic imports! Protect American families! Buy Made in America!

  • Kevin

    check out this web site : “savemydrywall.com” American made US Patent product that removes the toxins created form sulfur dioxide. good stuff they helped out a family in diamond head, ms, news story on it,

  • Kron

    Toxic imports? What about domestic toxicity? This is only one story amount many. I have a cell phone tower bolted to my living room wall next to one of my windows. I live in NYC and I rent. We renters in NYC have no rights except “hit the highway if you don’t like it.” I’m not allowed to register a complaint to the city and have no option to move at this time because I am disabled.

    I came down with Lymphoma a year after the cell phone tower was placed a few feet away from me and my landlord gets to profit. I spent 2 months in hospital last year and still suffer. I was almost dead more than a few times last year. Now I live with pain.

    My doctor says any radiation creates genetic mutation and cancer. On the other hand he quotes epidemiologists who say there is no evidence that this radiation can give us cancer. I have also been told the same thing about CT scans by oncologists. Which is it? Let’s face it, the cell phone and cancer industries are thriving.

    The NY Times has just last week said that we do not know yet if cell phones are dangerous. I sit next to millions of calls, not just my own.

    At one time asbestos, and cigarette’s were thought to be safe and it was many years after the evidence came in, that measures were taken for public safety.

    Kron

  • Kron

    PS. I must add that before Lymphoma I had Epstein Barr virus, Fibromyalgia, CFIDS, whichever you want to call it and I do understand what these people are going through. It bad, really bad. I also was severely asthmatic/allergic as a youngster. I am the canary in the coal-mine.

    It is now acknowledged that Epstein Barr is a precursor to cancer.

    The point I am making is that it’s happening all around us. No one is interested until it hits you right in the eye.

  • http://twitter.com/thomasturner Thomas Turner

    @PBSNeedToKnow how to absorb and filter drywall gases out of homes… http://goo.gl/DxyiO

  • Anonymous

    Gotta love the wonders of globalization and the “free” market!

  • Dave

    I hope a PBS program at minimal provides some kind of scientific facts. “Need to Know” failed to do so. Why not hire some top scientists do some researches before the show?

  • Mvat839

    This isn’t just a storyline…it’s a storyline with no remedy! NOBODY is willing to comply or help the situation. People with the drywall have written to head honchos in Washington and just about anyone who will listen…problem is….nobody listens. For the most part victims of CDW have been treated in a “sucks to be you” type of manner. Therefore, short term research is pretty much the only thing anyone will be willing to perform. It’s frustrating beyond belief and scary as well. I agree….further scientific proof should be provided…as a result would move remediation along resulting in innocent people being able to feel safe in their own home! :(

  • Daveschwartz41

    See, i do not understand the situation. We are really quick to send money to overseas areas that suffer from waves, earth quakes and so on. how about the people (like me) that have Chinese Drywall in our home in SW Florida. I served this country for 21 years in the Armed forces, is this a way to repay me for my service to the freedom of this country. Very dissapointed!

    Retired Salior

  • Mwoods

    My home to has been affected and we are thankful that Pbs took the time to air this show. Our family remodel our home in 2007 and all 2300 square feet is Chinese Drywall. Our lives have been changed forever.

    Woods
    from 4 bedrooms to 1 room

  • Lindawu

    Govenment needs to protect consumers, law should protect innocent homeowners, chinese drywall issues need to be resovled as soon as possible instead of ignore.

  • Anonymous

    The problem is, CPSC isn’t interested in doing objective research. They have deliberately stone-walled the release of information that the source of the sulfide gases being released by the drywall is a biological agent (there is no plausible chemical reaction that can produce observed gases in volumes being produced) known as sulfur-reducing bacteria (SRB).

    The solution is fairly simple. Replace the drywall and whatever might have been significantly damaged (in terms of functionality, aesthetic appearance, or safety).

    Replacement costs Florida run about $25 per square foot. Not cheap. The Feds could underwrite a program that encourages banks to make low-cost (underwritten) loans for rehabilitating these home. At an average $62,500 for an average 2500 sq ft home, $1 billion would rehab 16,000 homes. Given the propensity of this government to spend billions on pork, foreign aid to enemies, etc., this might be a better use of funds, wouldn’t you think?

  • Swilkens

    I am a CDW victim in Birmingham Alabama. After building my house in 2006, I found out it was built with 100% chinese drywall in 2009. The only consolation is that I now know why all my appliances starting to fail, electrical corrosive outlets and my illnesses were all caused by CDW. I moved out and am now paying rent and house payment. I have been fighting this for two years with no end in sight.

  • Harbor Walk Victim

    On June 1, 2006, I purchased a Chinese Drywall home (aka Gas Chamber imported from China). Two years ago on May 1, 2009, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf on the Chinese Drywall homeowners. To date, the homeowners have lost their health, homes, belongings, and finances. The homeowners are left holding the “empty bag of toxins” as the builders, suppliers, developers, the city/state/federal governments, and China have taken our money and the banks money. I moved out of my home more than 2 years ago because my health was more important than anything I owned. I was slowly dying in that chamber. During the last 2 years, I have had to fight the banks, government, suppliers, builders, developers, credit agencies, insurance companies, condo association and the battles continue as I face a court date on May 2nd by the condo association. This Gas Chamber destroyed the life that I knew, and it consumes the life that I know. So much for the American Dream, it went up in toxicity!

  • Family of 5

    There are thousands of families who have been completely abandoned by our government and left to carry the burden of our dependence on China along with life-long health scars. We’ve now been waiting on the legal system for 2 years paying a mortgage and rent because we can’t live in our home. Most people can’t hold on this long and many homes are going into foreclosure and being sold again to unsuspecting families. CDW is a cancer that is going to live in the US for years to come because NO ONE will do the right thing — sickening families and killing communities from in inside out.

  • Fryj1234

    Congress has more loyalty to China and their lobbyist then to American citizens. It’s time to throw the bums out…again.

  • Russmoody

    The lead Chinese drywall attorney for a major Florida law firm representing hundreds of victims has stated publically that there is very little hope for thousands of Chinese drywall victims to receive compensation through litigation. Our only hope is for our Federal government to step up to the plate and go to bat for the victims. Unfortunately, toxic Chinese drywall victims have been thrown under the bus by the Obama Administration and Congress. My wife and I live in Cape Coral Florida. Our Representative is Connie Mack. Congressman Mack’s district is ground zero for Chinese drywall, yet he refuses to do anything to help victims of toxic Chinese drywall. His signature is conspicuously absent on letters sent by Representatives to the Administration and government agencies seeking help for victims. He is conspicuously absent from the Congressional Drywall Caucus. At a recent town hall meeting he totally ignored questions from Chinese drywall victims – politicians are good at that. We’re one of the “lucky” victims. We have not been forced to move out of our home and we catch a tax break on our zero-valued home. Many of our friends with toxic Chinese drywall haven’t been that lucky.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1012111458 Ed X Pott

    Exactly why products used by Americans need to be made in America, So people can be held accountable and safety standards can be upheld, Make this information Viral instead of a laughing penguin please!

  • http://twitter.com/Medfordhouse Scott Nelson

    Where’s the rest of the story? I was expecting more from the story than just a rehash of the “facts”

  • Yin

    It doesn’t matter where you are – renters are nothing but trash who must obey their landlords or move.
    If you want a different service than they provide, move.
    If you don’t like the terms of the new lease, move.

    Along with all the other things we need in this country, we might also consider a ‘renter’s bill of rights.” (Among other things, if the landlord defaults on the loan, I am not required to move with no notice because the new owner does not want to rent. Or that I do not find MY possessions locked up and out of reach because I have the misfortune to be renting a foreclosed house.)

    But the problem is by no means confined to New York City.

  • Yin

    but if you rent, how can you find out if they used CDW? What are the symptoms of the syndrome?

  • Jperfume55

    The rest of the story is the video. There is just a short blurb setting the video up but the story is what we are supposed to watch rather than read.

  • John Lawrence Russo

    Yes what needs to be done is have a few community meetings and appoint some people to do some tasks Write an agenda and in that you need to go directly to the source of the problem. I have not heard anyone say that the chinese will not make good on this but it may be of everyones advantage to deal direct and bypass government which is to imbarassed to help Plus by dealing direct you have a better chance of not getting out of hand with the costs that end up going into government and politicians pockets instead of saving lives and money. I will be in FLA soon and will begin to help with this situation.

  • Darren_m

    Thats why people should quit buying from WALMART! Something will go wrong there to someday!

  • Colleen

    We have made it viral it just has not gotten as many hits at the laughing penguin. Sad statement on our society.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHOQxLj5Z4M

    Watch this second video. We are all very sad to inform you that Dick did not make it out of his CDW home in time, he passed away. Listen to what he says in the video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxVetSNSZo&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0GaTCJDqng&feature=fvwrel

  • Colleen

    The health symptoms can be wide ranging depending on your immune system and the amount of time spent in the house.
    The house symptoms are corroded ground wires and corroding of any copper and silver within the home. The main way that people have come to the realization that their home was built with CDW is that they have had numerous air conditioning issues. When the HVAC tech comes to the house they realize that the AC coils are completely black and need to be replaced.

  • Colleen

    It is not just Walmart. Go into every store, including high end stores, and you realize almost everything is Made in China! Watch your food also! Juices that are not a single ingredients but are blend do not need to be labeled with country of origin. Only single juices must be labeled and there is a faint stamp at the top of the apple juice that says Product of China.

  • http://www.secondshelters.com Candace

    Hi can you send me more info on this? I write a Dallas Real Estate blog: candace@secondshelters.com

  • JP614

    THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE

    After watching the program on Chinese dry wall I remembered a program I saw some years ago about syhthetic gypsum. That is the key to Chinese Dry Wall.

    Gypsum is a natural mineral and was/is used as the key ingredient for wall board or drywall.

    A byproduct of scrubbers used on coal fired electric plants and steel mills is FGD (Flue Gas Desulfurization) Gypsum. If this FGD Gypsum is processed further to purify it it is a suitable and cheaper substitute for natural gypsum and has been used for years by American drywall makers.

    It is obvious to me that China did not further process their FGD Gypsum thus the sulfur smell and contamination.

    I can not believe this was not brought up in the program!

  • Sansher20

    I wouldn’t buy any food from China, I do look and if its raised in China I wont buy it

  • Tim

    I’ve covered this topic for several years. The answer is really simple with respect to the cause:
    http://www.askthebuilder.com/Chinese_Drywall.shtml

    It’s the fly ash used as a filler in the drywall.

    Tim Carter
    Founder – http://www.AsktheBuilder.com

  • Tim

    I’ve covered this topic for several years. The answer is really simple with respect to the cause:
    http://www.askthebuilder.com/Chinese_Drywall.shtml

    It’s the fly ash used as a filler in the drywall.

    Tim Carter
    Founder – http://www.AsktheBuilder.com

  • http://leenoox.livejournal.com/ Baylink

    Seems to *me* that 65,000 American homeowners didn’t buy the gypsum for their walls *directly from China*… they bought the homes from *American* homebuilders, who probably bought the gypsum from *American* wholesalers — those companies are the ones who gambled, and they are the ones who should be on the hook here, in equity.

  • Another CDW Victim!!!

    As a victim of chinese drywall and our governments lack of action, I found the recent article regarding the use of hydrogen sulfide gas as a method of committing suicide very interesting… The CPSC and our elected leaders refuse to address the health concerns of those living in toxic environments created by contaminated drywall emitting hydrogen sulfide gases while home owner’s are dying a slow death…emotionally, financially and perhaps literally!  

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/us/19chemical.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=hydrogen%20sulfide%20gas&st=cse

  • Cmcpikin

    Blood clots, gastrointestinal disorders,unexplained heart trouble, shaking hands (like Parkinson’s) chronic respiratory problems constant headaches. That’s a partial list of the illnesses that we developed in just 6 months living in our home.Humidity makes this stuff extra dangerous and (up’s the dosage). What got us sick, The same thing that most likely made you sick here it is. Hydrogen Sulfide, Carbon Sulfide & Carbonyl Sulfide all emissions from Knauf Chinese Drywall.