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Chinese Drywall Reportedly Emitted Odors While Homes Were Built

Jun 1, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A new report says some Florida construction workers are claiming that Chinese drywall was  emitting foul odors while they were installing it in newly-built homes.  According to  The Juice blog at,  construction workers interviewed by attorneys representing homeowners in Chinese drywall lawsuits have also alleged that at some construction sites, steps were taken to cover-up the materials' odor problem.

Homeowners in at least 16 states have complained that fumes from Chinese-made drywall produce a “rotten eggs” odor and cause metals, such as air conditioning coils, to corrode. The fumes have also been associated with respiratory and sinus problems in some residents. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. imported roughly 309 million square feet of drywall from China during the housing boom from 2004 to 2007.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released results of tests it conducted that compared Chinese drywall to American-made material. The tests found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint in the Chinese drywall that were not present in the American wallboard. The agency said more testing is needed to determine if any of the compounds found in the Chinese drywall are responsible for problems reported by homeowners.

The first complaints about the smells and other problems associated with Chinese drywall were made by Florida homeowners in January.  But according to The Juice, some parties involved in the building of homes with tainted drywall knew about odor problems long before the owners moved in. Investigators working for plaintiffs' attorneys have spoken to construction workers who allege the following:

  • Some union workers refused to work with the Chinese drywall because of the severe sulfur-like smell, which they thought meant drywall was rotted and could lead to liability later.
  • Some employees of developers figured out that the smell would subside after the drywall was painted, so workers were told to paint quickly in order to mask the smell.
  • One builder kept drywall records in a truck "because they didn't want it in one place."

What investigators are still trying to determine is how high up the chain of command such alleged attempts to cover up the Chinese drywall's odor problems may have gone.  According to the Juice, it's not known if supervisors and top management with any builders knew about the smell from the Chinese drywall.

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