Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chinese Drywall? What is That?!

While I don’t know a lot about Chinese drywall and should not be considered an expert, I have studied this topic extensively as this problem is now showing up in our area. In this blog, I hope to answer at least some of the frequently asked questions. I am not an attorney nor an inspector, so all information here should be verified through your own research.
What is Chinese Drywall?
“Chinese Drywall refers to defective or tainted drywall imported from China from 2001 to 2007 which emits sulfur gasses which usually (but not always) creates a noxious odor and corrodes copper and other metal surfaces, thereby damaging your air conditioner, electrical wiring, copper plumbing, appliances and electronics.  Chinese drywall can also cause adverse health effects, although experts disagree whether these effects are merely irritants or present a more imminent or chronic health hazard.  Not all drywall manufactured in China is defective.” Source:
Is Chinese drywall harmful to people?
Yes! Without a doubt, the gasses that come from Chinese drywall corrode copper and metal surfaces.  Corrosion of electrical wiring could make smoke and carbon monoxide detectors less effective; this clearly is a safety concern.  In some homes with Chinese drywall, low level arcing has been discovered which could cause an electrical fire.
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum stated, “We have shared with affected families that hydrogen sulfide is causing the corrosion.” CPSC is continuing to look at long term health and safety implications. Studies show that Chinese drywall emits hydrogen sulfide up to 100 times greater than non-Chinese produced drywall.  Hydrogen sulfide is a hazardous gas which, in high concentrations, can be fatal.  There is also a strong association between hydrogen sulfide and metal corrosion.  Analytical testing of Chinese drywall samples shows strontium sulfide also.  
Highly toxic compounds have been found in Chinese drywall and prolonged exposure to these compounds can cause serious problems such as:
·         bone growth in developing children. 
·         central nervous system (including visual and sensory changes)
·         cardiovascular system
·         eyes
·         kidneys
·         liver
·         skin.  
Infants, children, the elderly and infirm (particularly those with heart and lung disease and diabetes) and pets may have an increased vulnerability to these gases and the particulates that are released from the drywall. 
Health issues include:
Public and private health care professionals have received reports of problems that include
- respiratory symptoms such as
- asthma attacks,
- congestion,
- coughing,
- shortness of breath,
- sinus problems,
- sneezing,
- sore throat,
- tightness of the chest,
- trouble breathing,
- dizziness,
- ear infections,
- eye irritation,
- fatigue,
- gastrointestinal problems,
- headaches,
- joint and muscle pain,
- nausea,
- nosebleeds,
- rashes,
- runny nose,
- and urinary tract infections

Can just the drywall be replaced?
No! In April 2010, based on scientific study of the problem to date, HUD and CPSC recommended removal of the following items and components to ensure remediation.
·         Sheetrock
·         Insulation
·         Wood products
·         Wiring and fixtures
·         Entire A/C system including ducts
·         Metal plumbing system components
·         Fire suppressions systems (sprinkler systems)
·         Smoke alarms
·         Carbon monoxide alarms
·         Gas lines, components and appliances using gas
Replacement of all fire safety alarm systems, electrical components and wiring, gas service piping and fire suppression sprinkler systems should address the metal components in the home at greatest risk of being affected by drywall-induced corrosion in a way that may affect the occupants' safety.
As the remediation is being conducted, certain other building materials and contents could be affected or require replacement. The Task Force does not offer any view on the replacement of other affected metals, home electronics, or personal property.
After the remediation, it is important to make sure that the home is thoroughly cleaned to remove any visible drywall dust and debris.
It’s important to note that the remediation is basically untried at this time, the extent of material removal and the 'washing' or 'neutralizing' of the Hydrogen Sulfide is not yet proved effective.
Can ordinary homeowners do the remediation themselves?
Probably not. All testing and remediation work should be conducted in compliance with applicable building codes, occupational safety and health standards, and environmental regulations.
Homeowners should be careful when hiring contractors for testing and remediation and should confirm references, qualifications, and background of individuals and firms that offer such services. Homeowners should ask individuals and firms who say they have different remediation strategies that are different than the federal government’s guidelines to explain their strategies to the homeowners’ satisfaction before they purchase these contractor’s services or products.
Will anyone help with the cost of remediation?
Maybe.  Homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage to victims of Chinese drywall for damage to their home or personal property or for temporary living expenses because Chinese drywall is a faulty material and, therefore, excluded under homeowners' insurance policies.  The corrosion exclusion also applies to damages (other than fire) caused by Chinese drywall.
On the other hand, if the homeowners have an FHA loan, the federal government may provide some relief. HUD has instructed lenders to temporarily suspend or reduce mortgage payments for homeowners who have tainted Chinese drywall. Lenders also are being encouraged not to charge late fees and to give the homeowners time to make up past-due payments. The guidelines, however, apply only to FHA mortgages.
In some cases, the builder may offer to remediate the problem. Exclusions for latent defects and pollution, however, do not apply under some states laws.  This ruling could be significant because builders' insurers have been relying on the pollution exclusion to deny coverage.

What about foreclosures?

Foreclosures are usually sold "as-is." Like any other property, it is in the buyers' best interest to have a thorough inspection of any home they are purchasing. If Chinese drywall is a concern, buyers can bring this to the inspector's attention.

More information on problem drywall is available at the following sources for this article:

Cindy LaPeer SFR, CDRS on Zillow