Home sick: Living with Chinese drywall

This week, we bring you a story about something that can be found in almost every home: drywall. It’s also called sheetrock, or plasterboard, and no matter where you are, it’s probably part of your wall, or your ceiling, or both. What you may not know is that some drywall — usually manufactured in China — could be making some people sick.

Here’s the background:  Between 2004 and 2007, the United States had a drywall shortage. That was mostly because we were in the middle of a building boom, and also because a series of hurricanes — especially Katrina — had wreaked havoc in the South. Chinese manufacturers were quick to capitalize on the shortage, exporting millions of sheets of drywall to the U.S., enough to build approximately 61,000 average-sized houses. Some of it has been blamed for health problems.

As part of our series, The Watch List, we bring you a report we orginally aired last spring, in cooperation with the independent investigative journalism group ProPublica, along with investigative reporter Aaron Kessler.A quick postscript:  In June, Propublica reported that insurers representing Florida-based drywall supplier, Banner Supply Company, agreed to pay some $55 million to settle some of the claims filed by people whose homes were built with Chinese drywall provided by the company. The settlement, reached in US District Court in New Orleans, does not impact Colleen Stephens. Banner, in turn, has filed a suit alleging fraud by the maker of the drywall, Knauf plasterboard Tianjin, as well as related companies.

Statement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (Aug. 4, 2011)

 

Comments

  • Sonia

    All I can say is that the court system will not be there for this family unfortunately.  Been there, done that as the saying goes.  I am a victim of living in a mobile home with extremely high levels of formaldehyde gas.  I almost died from porphyria from exposure to it.  The justice system always tries to cover up stuff.  The only good thing that came of it is that I am well versed in this chemical and can detect it easily.  I know this is a different chemical but the symptoms I saw on tonight’s show are exactly the same as formaldehyde.  Why do I think that this home also has formaldehyde?  And yes, my family and I were living next to the mobile home just like this family is doing.  15 years ago, we tried to stop this home from being sold again.  But our efforts were useless.  It was resold.  I feel sorry for the family who has it now.  I only wonder what would have happened had we been listened to.  Probably these stories would not exist.

  • Chinesedrywall

    Please contact me at chinesedrywallva@yahoo.com.  Would love to know more about your experience.

  • ItalicsMyn

    How long will it take to aerate, outgas, or whatever the expression is, with the doors and windows open, to make the structure safe to live in again?

  • Truthseekerharrison

    Yeah, free trade, yeah, sending our jobs to China. Yeah, zionists control of the US. yeah, politically correctness, yeah, war, yeah, low morals, yeah, gmo foods, yeah, materialism, yeah, the end of the nation as we  know it.

  • Darryl Baker

    GREAT story!  And since the US government seems to not have any direct recourse against China for (knowlingly) producing and shipping tainted drywall which should have been against all ISO specifications, then why not place them in violation of current and past Trade Agreements and levy fines against them to help reduce our trade imbalances and debts owed?

    China has seemed to find many back door ways to avoid dealing with the US in good faith as far as patents and copyrights are concerned, so why not back door them at the International Bank and the International Court of Public Opinion.

    Tainted drywall, lead paint in toys, etc.should tie these matters up quite handily for YEARS until they play fair with us.  Try levying double or treble damages against them for what they have done to violate / and NOT DONE to honor and respect the agreements that the US has entered into with them?

    Sometimes, it is better to fight fire with fire.  This seems like a good matter for the United Nations as well as the international courts to take up.

    While it is sad that we did not think to write in these types of provisions and safeguards in the FIRST place, it seems to me that we really should not have to ASSUME that our trading partners will treat us fairly when it comes to matters like US public health and safety.

    This could be a good starting point for the US to begin resolving thses sorts of issues and act in the best interests of everyone concerned.

  • Darryl Baker

    Also, Chinese drywall was likely used in many office and commercial buildings as well.

  • Dorothy

    Probably never.  We have two such homes in our subdivision in Richmond, Texas where the owners recently moved out. Perry Homes has to pay for their move, lodging, house has been stripped inside.  Only the framing is in the inside. All wires, fixtures, appliance, drywall, insulation, etc. have been removed. Very eerie. Windows are partially left open.  Animals, geckos, bugs, spiders and ? (Maybe snakes) moving in.  It is very humid and hot causing more release of the toxins.  Owners have to still pay the mortgage and come by to water yard.  China should have to pay for this damage.

  • re-finder

    Our government will use any and all means necessary to destroy this country both politically and financially.  Whether that be through allowing inferior product in that cause health problems, letting Muslims in to cause strife or allowing terrorists in so they can attack us like they did on 911.  It is all a part of the plan to change the character of America as a free Republic.  It is the Saul Alinsky plan laid out in “Rules for Radicals”.  Overload the system with problems until it collapses.  Until we bring to justice those inside our government which were complicit in the 911 attack, all else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  We must put an end to the Zionist occupation of our government or else we are done for.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZWW36I4TB7VU4RFI7MDPBI2RQ John

    Do you really think that the US Gov’t. didn’t know about this?  

  • CuriousEGM

    It all makes you wonder if drywall not originating from Asia is safe enough for our modern day life battered lungs.  How safe is drywall really? Do we have a good notion of whether it will be safe to dwell in a home or not?  The problem is huge, it has almost no public interest and no one will touch the subject with a ten foot pole because of the expenses involved in the research and true remedial steps for a resolution.  This problem needs a resolution, it is of utmost importance.

  • Eddie Wieber

    Your stories last week about Chinese drywall, Youngstown and David Graeber’s book on Debt and Forgiveness are related and I wondered if that was intentional.
    As much as I sympathize with Ms. Stephens, I find it ironic that while there is a lot of interest in fixing up old historic homes such as hers in upscale neighborhoods, we are more than willing to send materials to landfills in downscale neighborhoods like those depicted in Youngstown.

    The unfortunate solution for the people whose homes are infested with poisonous drywall (and I believe most legitimate contractors would agree) is to tear out every crumb of that and find a way to dispose of it safely so it doesn’t leach into the ground water. Then start over.

    Of course, that represents a net loss, for which in our culture, we believe somebody else is liable and should pay. So she goes to the contractor, who goes to the drywall supplier, who goes to the distributor, who goes to the manufacturer, who happens to be an unknown and unaccountable company somewhere in China. Finding culpability in such international trade schemes is probably never going to result in an apology, much less a refund for substandard products. And as any contractor also knows, tearing out and replacing a house full of drywall is not going to be easy and it represents a lot more money in labor than the cost of the drywall.
    Which is where the debt and forgiveness part comes in. There is a disconnect between the value of a home and the materials, skill and hard work that is really involved in building a place to live in a community. When there is wasted time and materials, there is no viable way to recoup the loss. It’s just a loss and it has to be accepted as such. 

    What is a house worth, if not a place to call home? Should those homes in Youngstown be sent to a landfill, or should a few people go to work tearing down those that are not worth fixing, and learning about construction while learning how to reclaim the materials? Are we really that flush with resources that we can still afford to waste them in the name of making more money?

    The biggest losers in this are those who can not afford it.

  • Eddie Wieber

    Your stories last week about Chinese drywall, Youngstown and David Graeber’s book on Debt and Forgiveness are related and I wondered if that was intentional.
    As much as I sympathize with Ms. Stephens, I find it ironic that while there is a lot of interest in fixing up old historic homes such as hers in upscale neighborhoods, we are more than willing to send materials to landfills in downscale neighborhoods like those depicted in Youngstown.

    The unfortunate solution for the people whose homes are infested with poisonous drywall (and I believe most legitimate contractors would agree) is to tear out every crumb of that and find a way to dispose of it safely so it doesn’t leach into the ground water. Then start over.

    Of course, that represents a net loss, for which in our culture, we believe somebody else is liable and should pay. So she goes to the contractor, who goes to the drywall supplier, who goes to the distributor, who goes to the manufacturer, who happens to be an unknown and unaccountable company somewhere in China. Finding culpability in such international trade schemes is probably never going to result in an apology, much less a refund for substandard products. And as any contractor also knows, tearing out and replacing a house full of drywall is not going to be easy and it represents a lot more money in labor than the cost of the drywall.
    Which is where the debt and forgiveness part comes in. There is a disconnect between the value of a home and the materials, skill and hard work that is really involved in building a place to live in a community. When there is wasted time and materials, there is no viable way to recoup the loss. It’s just a loss and it has to be accepted as such. 

    What is a house worth, if not a place to call home? Should those homes in Youngstown be sent to a landfill, or should a few people go to work tearing down those that are not worth fixing, and learning about construction while learning how to reclaim the materials? Are we really that flush with resources that we can still afford to waste them in the name of making more money?

    The biggest losers in this are those who can not afford it.

  • Radiant Remodeling & Custom Ho

    There is no cut-n-dry way to determine if/if not defective drywall is present, barring gutting the entire home! Yes… initial methods include year built and perhaps a strong sulfur odor and/or a lot of metal corrosion, but none of these is confirmation either way, although if all 3 are present, further inspection is highly recommended. Florida AC coils all blacken over time, and any copper will patina over time as well. I can attest first hand that every area of SW Florida I’ve been in, has high levels of sulfur in the ground water. Checking the backside of ceiling board is not a cure-all either, since in modern construction ceiling board is always different than wall board!

    So let’s say I as the Inspector I find US sheetrock in the attic space, that doesn’t prove anything for any of the wallboard. So let’s “scope” a few wall cavities…. the representative areas are all of US origin. Good right? Wait… let’s complicate things further; as a builder I place my order from my suppliers and have it delivered… hundreds of boards/home on average. It would be impossible for the supplier, let alone the builder, let alone the drywall sub to inspect every single board used in the average home. It get’s better yet! What if I’m a builder of a sub-division of single family homes, or a townhouse community? Those boards get carried from one unit to another, in the way of excess material from a previously completed unit, or rob Peter to pay Paul at a board here or there when another unit comes up short. See where I’m going here? You could have a row of townhomes, 6-8 to a building, and only have one or two with/without defective sheetrock! (hypothetically speaking)

    So the next logical step if all 3 symptoms above are present is Lab testing. Each sample tested costs anywhere from $175.00 – $350.00 on average, depending on the Inspector and Lab used. “Generally” it would be suggested to take “at least” 10 samples from the average 3/2/2 but that is not written in stone, since there is no official statutes governing this yet…. only suggestions from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Guidance Report of March 18, 2011. As a Residential Builder of almost 30 years and a Home Inspector, I would suggest that once you are really sure you are prepared to invest the large sum of money to do it correctly, you take several samples from indiscreet areas in every room of the home. This get’s extremely expensive and is usually only recommended if you are currently in litigation. Sorry for the lengthy post, but I like to educate my fellow citizens before they make too many assumptions or rash decisions.

    Jim Mullen
    President
    Radiant Remodeling & Custom Homes, Inc
    (941) 451-7356
    Jmullen@Radiant-Homes.com
    http://www.Radiant-Homes.com
    http://www.SWFLhomeinspections.us