What is Chinese Drywall?

posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by Marketing Director

Over the past year Chinese drywall has become an extremely controversial issue in the Florida construction industry. The tainted building material causes the accelerated corrosion of the copper and metal materials contained in the homes mechanical and electrical equipment resulting in costly repairs. Also, long term exposure to the product has been associated with such adverse health issues as respiratory problems, sinus infections, headaches, asthma, and fatigue. To date, the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) have received approximately 1,311 reports of defective Chinese drywall from residents in 26 States and the District of Columbia. Approximately 76% of these reports are from residents in Florida.

In short, Chinese drywall is drywall that was imported from China and later found to contain strontium sulfide. Strontium sulfide (SrS) is an inorganic sulfide that reacts in moist air to produce the corrosive gas hydrogen sulfide (H2S). It is this gas that is responsible for the sulfurous odor (commonly compared to the smell of rotten eggs) typically reported in affected homes. Several theories have been developed to explain the presence of this material in the tainted drywall; however, the exact source remains unclear.

The Chinese drywall controversy most likely started as a result of a post-hurricane construction/reconstruction boom following 2004.  The increased construction caused an American-made drywall shortage that spurred a large influx in imported drywall. Shipping records indicate that more than 500 millions pounds of tainted drywall was imported from China between the years 2004 and 2007. According to some estimates this drywall may have been used in more than 100,000 homes.

The full extents of the financial losses that will be incurred from the various effects of Chinese drywall have yet to be realized. Based on publicly available information, National Underwriter has estimated that these losses could fall in the range of $15 billion to $25 billion.

Cory Salzano, E.I.
Junior Engineer
m2e Consulting Engineers