Tests Show Chinese Drywall ContainsMar 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Tests commissioned by the Florida Health Department have found "volatile" sulfur compounds in Chinese drywall blamed for causing foul odors and metal corrosion in scores of homes in the state. According to BradentonHerald.com, state health officials say further testing is needed to determine if those compounds are responsible for the reported problems.
Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage during the housing boom years prompted many builders to buy drywall from China. The Florida Health Department has received more than 100 complaints about drywall that has polluted homes with a putrid, “rotten-egg” smell. Fumes from the drywall have also caused metals - like air conditioning coils - to corrode, and the material has also been suspected of causing respiratory and sinus problems among people living with it. Some residents have been forced to move from their homes, and some builders have begun gutting homes and replacing the drywall.
Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf Group, is the company at the focus of Florida’s drywall problems. The company has been named in several class action lawsuits, including one filed by the Bonita Springs law firm of Parker Waichman LLP.
While Florida is ground zero for Chinese drywall complaints, the material has reportedly turned up in other states. According to the consumer group America’s Watchdog, drywall from China was likely used in the Deep South, the Midwest, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, British Columbia, and even Hawaii.
As we reported last week, a family from New Orleans has also filed a class action lawsuit against several drywall manufacturers. The plaintiffs claim that their house, which was built in 2006, is emitting the rotten egg smell, causing respiratory problems and corroding electrical equipment.
According to BradentonHerald.com, The Florida Health Department hired Unified Engineering Inc. to test some Chinese drywall. The company ran tests on three samples and found it contained higher levels of sulfuric and organic compounds than an American sample tested, according to a preliminary report released Friday. The three Chinese samples — including one made by Knauf — all contained traces of strontium sulfide while the American sample did not, BradentonHerald.com said. Strontium sulfide is a gray powder that emits a hydrogen sulfide, or “rotten eggs,” odor when exposed to moist air, BradentonHerald.com said.
The three Chinese samples also contained hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide. According to BradentonHerald.com, hydrogen sulfide and carbonyl sulfide are called highly flammable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA says hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic, while carbonyl sulfide can be fatal if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Carbon disulfide is described by NOAA as an extremely flammable liquid that can emit highly toxic fumes.
These were also found in the American sample, but could have been contaminated by the other samples as all had been shipped together, the report said.
Unified Engineering said that its tests found the Chinese drywall gave off a sulfur odor "when exposed to extreme heat and moisture. It is clear that exposure to moisture accelerates the release of volatiles from the drywall.”
The company recommended further testing to determine whether organic or sulfur compounds where to blame for the problems seen in Florida homes. According to BradentonHerald.com, the Unified Engineering report also said more testing would be needed to determine if the sulfuric compounds came from the gypsum used to make the Chinese drywall, or from other components used in the drywall, such as its paper backing.