Drywall, also called wallboard or plasterboard, is a building material made from gypsum plaster and paper. It is used worldwide in the construction of interior walls and ceilings. New homes in the United States traditionally have been built with American-made drywall, but a shortage of the material from 2004 to 2006 resulted in the importation of drywall from other countries. The shortage occurred after Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Rita devastated Florida and the Gulf Coast region, causing extensive damage to homes that then needed to be rebuilt.
Recently, it has been discovered that much of the drywall imported from China from 2004 to 2006 is defective. Chinese drywall may not always be labeled, “Made in China.” Drywall that has been manufactured in China is not always stamped, and it may have been rebranded by American companies who imported it. The source of the defective drywall is suspected to be Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China.
The most notable characteristic of Chinese drywall is that it makes homes smell like rotten eggs. The importers claim that the sulfur smell comes from naturally mined gypsum they use to make drywall, and that they have changed gypsum mines after investigating odors in the drywall. Taishan Gypsum has also been implicated in the manufacturing and distribution of tainted drywall. Experts say that the defective drywall contains fly ash, a waste material from coal burning power plants. Chinese drywall releases a number of toxic chemicals into the air, including hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, strontium sulfide, and carbon disulfide.
The Chinese drywall problem is being investigated by a number of entities. Among them are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Florida and Louisiana Departments of Health.