Chinese Drywall Fumes Linked to Corrosion in Florida HomesJan 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
It has been confirmed that fumes from defective Chinese drywall are causing air conditioning coils and other metals to corrode in some Florida homes. While sulfur emissions from the drywall are behind the corrosion problems, a study conducted by Environ International Corp. maintains the material poses no health hazards. Environ International was hired by Lennar Corp., one of the biggest builders in South Florida, to test homes built with the defective Chinese drywall.
Over the past several months, owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. In several cases, they have had to leave their home because the smell was so bad. In addition to the putrid smell, many South Florida homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall. Some spent hundreds - even thousands of dollars - to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.
Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2004 and 2006 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China. Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during Florida’s construction boom years of 2004-2005. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf, is the company at the center of Florida’s drywall problems.
According to BradentonHerald.com, homes built by Lennar and Taylor Morrison are at the center of many drywall complaints. Lennar has acknowledged the problems, and says it will replace drywall, as well as air conditioning, pipes and wiring damaged by the fumes. The developer also said it would cover relocation costs of families who must move while repairs are made.
According to a report on HeraldTribune.com, the tests conducted by Environ International on some of the Lennar homes last year found three sulfide gases - carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide, a particularly dangerous compound with a characteristic rotten-eggs smell, was not found in Environ's air tests, but it was found in previous testing that the company conducted on the Chinese drywall itself
"We have definitely identified that a combination of sulfide gases are the cause of the corrosion of the coils," said Robert P. DeMott, managing principal of Environ, told HeraldTribune.com. "The substances we've found are well known to cause that kind of corrosion."
However, DeMott maintained that the tests showed the levels of fumes were below what would be considered a health hazard.
Not everyone is convinced that the drywall fumes in homes are not a threat to health. Michael Foreman, head of Sarasota construction consulting firm Foreman & Associates, told HeraldTribune.com that he is disturbed by reports that residents in homes built with the defective drywall are experiencing respiratory discomfort and other problems.
"If that's the case, then why is everybody getting sick?" Foreman said. "Why do they all have the same problems? If it's caustic enough to eat up the components in the house, then I can only imagine it must have some effect on your body."
Forman also maintained that it can be difficult to get accurate readings on air quality tests.