EPA Releases Report On Stinky Chinese Drywall

Homeowners in Florida have been complaining that Chinese-made drywall has been stinking up their homes and corroding their wiring — and now that EPA has released a report that finds that indeed, there is something rotten smelling in the drywall. Sulfur.

According to the report, the Chinese made drywall contained sulfur and two compounds associated with acrylic paint that were not found in samples of drywall manufactured in the US. The EPA also found levels of strontium that were higher than in US drywall.

The AP says that shipping records show that “imports of potentially tainted Chinese building materials exceeded 500 million pounds during a four-year period of soaring home prices, peaking in 2006.”

Although the problem remains somewhat mysterious, the tainted drywall apparently causes a reaction that produces a foul, rotten stench that gets worse with heat and apparently corrodes metal — there have even been reports of blackened jewelry.

So far there’s been no evidence of a health hazard, but the Senate is going to address the issue in a hearing Thursday.

EPA finds suspect materials in foreign drywall [AP] (Photo: Qole Pejorian)

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  1. DoubleEcho says:

    No evidence of a health hazard? Even if you ignore the people complaining of health problems, what about corroded eletrical wire? I’d say that’s one huge ass health hazard when your house catches on fire.

    • floraposte says:

      @DoubleEcho: Wouldn’t all the wiring in a new build be coated/within conduit, though?

      • DoubleEcho says:

        @floraposte: Not at the endpoint though, which would be your switch or outlet. And that would be the closest to the wood frame and drywall if it happens to spark. Wireboxes may protect from some sparking, but I still think it’s a safety issue; I wouldn’t be satisfied with someone telling me it’s OK for my copper wire to corrode within a year without being exposed to the elements.

      • OMAC says:

        @floraposte:

        No,there are plenty of exposed bits of copper in qa new home. The wires are not protected in the switches, outlets, junction boxes or circuit breaker box. Also there have been reports of AC units being fouled because of the corroded copper inside them, specifically the condenser coil.

      • lannister80 says:

        @floraposte: Conduit is not air-tight, and a lot of states (IL for one, at least where I live) do not require conduit.

        Goddamn Chinese…this is what happens when you don’t have any consumer protection laws, or they aren’t enforced.

        • redskull says:

          @lannister80: Before everyone starts cursing the Chinese yet again, take a look at this simple equation:

          American consumers who demand
          the lowest possible price on
          everything they buy

          +

          American corporations that
          demand the highest possible
          profits

          =

          Shoddy, dangerous merchandise
          from the only labor market
          that can satisfy both
          those conditions

          We have no one to blame but ourselves when things like this happen.

          • Rachacha says:

            @redskull: You forgot the housing boom and numerous huricanes that ravished the south east. Domestic production facilities could not keep up with the demand so high volume builders and suppliers went to other sources (aka China) to fulfill their orders.

            • cerbie says:

              @Rachacha: …and there were no nations producing drywall other than the USA and China? Sorry, not buying that.

              • Rachacha says:

                @cerbie: From a time Magazine article (and many other articles) [www.time.com] “builders were desperate for materials, and drywall was especially in demand. Before 2005, drywall imports to the U.S. from China were negligible; since 2006, more than 550 million lb. of it has been shipped here, mostly to Florida. The imports amount to a fraction of the 15 million tons of drywall produced domestically each year, but it was used to build more than 60,000 homes in at least a dozen states – including some post-Katrina reconstruction in Louisiana.”

                The U.S. produces 15 million tons each year, and between 2006-2008 we imported 275,000 tons (1.8% of our annual usage over a 2 year period). With these low numbers, I don’t believe that it was a cost savings issue. Drywall is big and heavy, and it soaks up water, which means that it is likely expensive to ship from overseas, and special precautions need to be taken to ensure than on the 2 weeks that it is sitting on the dock, and on the ship, it does not soak up enough water to ruin it.

                I never said that cost was not an issue, but I think that demand drove the imports, and China has the ability to ramp up production to meet demands much more quickly than Europe or South America could.

          • emis says:

            @redskull:
            Before everyone starts cursing the Chinese yet again

            I agree…

            …unless there is a specific formula for the drywall composition that those American corporations called for and the Chinese producers agreed to and claimed they were producing.

            In which case it is indeed “the chinese” who are to blame–which in itself is not good because it’s like not like all billion+ are responsible, it’s some big corporation there that is screwing up, probably less then a hundred or so people who are truly responsible if that.

            • Saisu Mimen says:

              @emis:

              The REAL sad part about all this is that there is no “brand” that is being tainted by these dangerous products. Businesses in this country don’t do business directly with the factories, and instead often rely on “representatives” (middlemen) that hook up US customers with Chinese producers.

              The irony being that if this happens once, even if you try to get more product through a different contact, you may very well end up doing business with the very same factory that made you the dangerous product to begin with.

          • Spectre1125 says:

            @redskull: I expect something that’s cheap to fall apart earlier or not perform as well as something that is more expensive. I don’t expect it to destroy my house or kill me because I didn’t pay another five cents on the dollar.

            To say consumers actually want to intentionally buy hazardous products in order to save money is silly.

    • Rachacha says:

      @DoubleEcho: I agree with you, but the corroded electrical wiring is not a health issue, it is a SAFETY issue, with the secondary or terterary effects being health related(when there is a fire in your home, and your inhale the smoke from your burning Chinese leather couch an your lead painted toys).

      You have to look carefully at the wording…”No EVIDENCE of a health hazard…” meaning that the drywall is a potential suspect for all of these health complaints, failing wiring and failing appliances, but there has not yet been a direct link between the drywall and these issues. In other words, the government is now entering phase 2 of their analysis, looking at the effects of these chemicals on humans and electrical appliances, only then will they be able to say that the drywall is LINKED to these issues.

    • secret_curse says:

      @DoubleEcho: I don’t care who says it’s not a health hazard, if it’s corroding metal it can’t be good for our lungs…

    • unpolloloco says:

      @DoubleEcho: surface corrosion (what’s happening here) on electrical wire will not result in a fire hazard because the corrosion is only a couple of molecules thick. The contacts will wear out faster, requiring the replacement of the outlet sooner, but that’s about all that will happen.

  2. Radi0logy says:

    China just can’t cut a break can they

  3. Sean Masters says:

    First they put drywall in their dim-sum, now they put it in our homes! Unacceptable!

    :D

    • Cocoa Vanilla says:

      @Sean Masters: Didn’t they eventually find the story was fabricated? And then the TV reporter that made up the story was executed or something? (It’s China, they execute people for the stupidest things.)

    • Who wants chowdah?? says:

      @Sean Masters: You’d think if they were putting drywall in our dimsum that they’d put dimsum in our drywall.

  4. Jeremy82465 says:

    China . . . we need to have a talk. Sit down please. Look, we get it when little plastic toys come over here and they are cheap and break easily, we understand. Lately though, well lets just say you have been slacking. We apreciate all your hard work, we do, but you need to step it up. Now I dont want to see you back in this office again, alright? Go on, get outta here you scamp!

    • billbobbins says:

      @Jeremy82465:
      Seriously, do they just think they can throw anything extra they have laying around in the mix? Baby formula, now drywall.

  5. Baroo says:

    I’m sure their defense is going to be something like, “if you used lead paint to paint your walls, instead of hippy paint, this would be a non issue.”

    • shepd says:

      @Baroo:

      Stupid people putting rosehips in their paint! When will they ever learn?!

    • econobiker says:

      @Baroo: I am sure the importer of record is currently closing up shop and declaring bankruptcy for 5 of the 10 shell companies protecting the mother company…

      Let the shredding begin…

  6. shepd says:

    This is what happens when you make drywall from used scrubbers (common, actually) *WITHOUT* cleaning it thoroughly first (uncommon and stupid).

    I wonder how much of the strontium is strontium-90? :D

    • hankrearden says:

      @shepd:

      Mmmmmm Strontium….good for the bones….yum yum

    • sir_eccles says:

      @shepd: If it is strontium-90, I guess they didn’t get round to installing those fancy radiation detectors in the shipping ports?

    • Coles_Law says:

      @shepd: 29 year half life-pay off your mortage and cut your radiation exposure in half! Win-win! Just avoid the option ARM that deposits depleted uranium in your house after 5 years.

      • PølάrβǽЯ says:

        @Coles_Law: “Just avoid the option ARM that deposits depleted uranium in your house after 5 years.”

        I don’t think it’s your house that receives the uranium deposit when you have an option-ARM. Got any K-Y?

    • usa_gatekeeper says:

      @shepd: So much for worrying about radon.

  7. JGKojak says:

    You get the feeling if a U.S. company did this they’d have to recall everything– why allow this to continue to go to market? Why not sue the Chinese for replac… — oh yeah, under the free trade agreements w/China, they can’t be sued… never mind. Why is my ceiling glowing?

    • TEW says:

      @JGKojak: You don’t realize that China owns us. If they wanted to call our debt we would become a 3rd world nation overnight. Also we have to kiss their a** so they will keep buying our debt. If they stop buying Tbills then inflation will come back with a vengeance. We are so screwed.

    • Coles_Law says:

      @JGKojak: More likely, they’d just go bankrupt-see Peanut Corp.

    • H3ion says:

      @JGKojak: There had to be a US company involved in some fashion. Maybe the construction company, maybe the US distributor or importer of the drywall. Somebody has a big target on his back with the word “defendant” in the middle.

      • Spectre1125 says:

        @H3ion: Indeed. And that company is going to get lambasted into obscurity. On the Chinese side, some bureaucrat doing what his bosses tell him to is going to get shot in the back of the head. Afterwards, his replacement will pump out the same crappy drywall in the same crappy building with the same lack of standards that will eventually cause this completely avoidable, money-centered, consumer disaster to happen, again.

    • PølάrβǽЯ says:

      @JGKojak: IT’S MOOD LIGHTING!

  8. JohnDeere says:

    first they imposed a 1 child law, growing an army for world domination. then they put lead poison in our toys to kill off our future soldiers. then melamine in the dog food to kill off our last line of home defense. then they put the poisoned drywall in our homes to kill us off making their army for world domination obsolete. so then they put melamine in their own baby formula to kill off thier excess children since they didn need them anymore for their army. they have almost won.

    • bologna_wallet says:

      @JohnDeere: And manufactured an earthquake to kill off those excess children not drinking formula

    • henwy says:

      @JohnDeere:

      Wouldn’t the one child law limit the size of their army? After all, they were popping out far more kids before it.

      • JohnDeere says:

        @henwy: ya, but there are now a lot more men than women b/c people want to have heirs, so theres a lot of lonely guys out there for the army.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a huge problem where I live. I’m in Port Saint Lucie, FL. There are tons of homes here that have this Chinese drywall in them. Many people are getting sick from this…bloody noses, upper respiratory problems, just to name a couple. Almost all of these homeowners cannot afford financially to leave their homes to get away from it. There are a handful of people that have gotten thier original builders to replace the drywall.

    The problem was the greedy ass builders looked for a cheaper product to use. Shamefull, especially because this was during a huge housing boom here. They were already making tons of money and just wanted to squeeze a few monre pennies!!!

    This will be an ongoing problem. I foresee many many lawsuits!!!

    Oh, and did I mention that inspectors in this area want to charge $2000 to test to see if your home actually has chinese drywall?!? Someone else banking on this big problem already!!!

    • XTC46 says:

      @PietroGauze: so you are mad becasue a company, who’s goal is to turn a profit, decided to use a cheaper alternative? Unless they knew of the danger of using it, there was nothing wrong with what they did.

      There is also nothing wrong with charging to run chemical analysys of that drywall to determine if it is also bad. lab time costs money, and unless somone has developed a cheap onsite test, 2k doesnt sound too far off.

      Also, why arent you blaming the people who bought these houses for not getting the material inspected on their own before making what is quite likely the biggest investment of their lives.

      • wildhare says:

        @xtc46: There are construction industry standards and regulations, many of these contractors and real estate builders were willfully ignoring these standards and regulations in the interest of cheaper materials and methods that would save them money.

        In several states there are houses built with cheap Styrofoam insulation that eventually caused horrible mold problems as water was trapped underneath the sheet rock and not allowed to breath. The materials used were a cheap solution to insulation, a more traditional method would have allowed for moisture to be released.

        Here the contractor or builder is at fault for not investigating the product they used. It would like as if they used poor quality metal to hold structurally critical beams. If the metal failed and was shown to be obviously poor quality (unsuitable for the application) they would be held liable.

      • Spectre1125 says:

        @xtc46: As a consumer, it is reasonable to assume that services and products you purchase meet a certain standard of quality. That’s why things like recalls exist. Product safety is not a responsibility of the end buyer. This is a pretty cut and dry issue.

        The problem in this case is because this crap is Chinese, no one can really go after the responsible parties in any meaningful way.

    • etla says:

      @PietroGauze: Yep, never buy a house built during a housing boom. Last time the big gotcha was aluminum wire.

  10. flamincheney says:

    IF they admit a health hazard then insurers will have to pay out on claims to have this shit removed.

    I have to assume the insurance lobby wouldn’t like this too much. By delaying any further information they are putting the onus on homeowners to take care of this themselves or by suing builders (who have the defense that there are no adverse health issues).

    Keep in mind the FDA allowed lobbyists to declare BPA safe, and go figure all the independent researchers were really right, it is bad for you.

  11. youbastid says:

    Back when the US was an actual world superpower and not a cog in the wheel of globalization, we would have banned imports from China long ago until they got their act together. Instead, it’s large corporations buying cheap, dangerous junk from China and unloading it on an unwitting American public. And when the time comes to take responsibility they can pass the buck onto both the consumer (you wanted cheap prices!) and the outsourced companies (we had no idea this was going on but we take it very seriously!).

  12. theblackdog says:

    If it turns out this is a health hazard, will this post be re-tagged with Chinese Poison Train?

  13. lictor says:

    Seems like we are focusing on the locale where the defective product comes from, rather than the supply chain. In Europe the CE Mark denotes compliance with safety/environmental laws. The executive who signs their name to the CE Mark is responsible for the product’s compliance. No costly checking by government on a routine basis, it is “self certification.” When a product causes harm like this, the executive goes to jail. Thus an incentive for the company who imported/sold this product to deliver safe products.

    • Rachacha says:

      @lictor: Partly true, except the European Government does conduct post market surveillance which is very expensive, and some argue not very effective as noted in this public request for comment [www.regulations.gov]
      A survey of electrical products was taken in Europe.
      “Only 5% (11 out of 226 samples) showed no shortcomings”… and
      “In total, 210 cord extension sets were tested and the results show that only one in six cord extension sets fully complied with the LVD and GPSD requirements. Although the non-compliant samples also include those which exhibit only administrative failures, e.g. relating to faulty declarations of conformity or missing technical documentation, around 58% of the cord extension sets tested was considered sufficiently unsafe by the authorities to justify a sales ban.[recall]

      This seems to indicate that relying on manufacturers to do the right thing and “self certify” may not be an effective solution either.

    • Raiders757 says:

      @lictor: I can’t speak for Europe, but I know the problem also exists in Virginia. Our local news has been covering this stinky drywall issue for several months now.

  14. eabu says:

    If there is a demand for crap like this, it will continue to be imported to the US. Just walk into Walmart and observe the demand.

  15. kbarrett says:

    If they just made the drywall out of depleted Uranium, there would not be an odor or corrosion problem.

    And the walls would turn a 155mm shell.

  16. wildhare says:

    Hello? China, the most polluted country in the world almost.

    I bet a good strategy for them is to pump toxic chemicals into millions of cheap US products and ship them here just to get rid of the waste. *ha ha ha* *fat American idiots!*

  17. bluewyvern says:

    Electrical anomalies? Mysteriously corroded metals? A lingering smell of sulfur?

    Sounds like all the hallmarks of a ghostly presence, or maybe demonic possession! Someone check the EMF readings! Call Sam and Dean!

  18. JessicaJessica says:

    China needs to be financially penalized for this, otherwise they will never change.

  19. anduin says:

    no need to be cheap when it comes to things like walls people, saving a grand and having quality gypsum vs chinese imported and cancer later…well its up to you