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Should You be Worried About Chinese drywall? What it Is, and Why Thousands of Homeowners’ Health May be at Risk


Contaminated drywall from China, used to build more than 60,000 homes in at least a dozen states, may be emitting toxic levels of chemical pollutants like sulfur into new homes.

chinese drywall

Thousands of homeowners have had their new home dreams turn into nightmares because of potentially contaminated Chinese drywall.

More than 500 million pounds of potentially tainted Chinese building materials may have been imported into the United States, particularly to Florida, at the height of the housing boom, according to shipping records reviewed by The Associated Press (AP).

The drywall lets off fumes that smell like rotten eggs and are potent enough to corrode copper pipes and make jewelry and silverware turn black. In fact, one of the telltale signs that a home may contain Chinese drywall is corroded piping and wiring that causes electronics and appliances, including air conditioners, to fail.

Some homeowners have also issued lawsuits alleging the drywall has caused health effects ranging from headaches and sore throats to dizziness and respiratory illness.

"This is a traumatic problem of extraordinary proportions," said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler in an AP article.

Wexler has introduced a bill calling for a temporary ban on Chinese-made building imports until their chemical makeup is investigated further. Florida has been particularly hard-hit with Chinese drywall problems.

Why is Chinese Drywall Potentially Toxic?

According to, compounds such as butanethial, carbonyl sulfide, hydrogen sulfide, mercaptan, methylthio pyridone, sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid, sulfur dioxide and stronium sulfide have been found in Chinese drywall.

So far, the Florida Department of Health has said that levels of toxins are not high enough to pose an “imminent or chronic health problem at this time,” but the U.S. EPA has previously declared many of those compounds to be toxic.

The U.S. government does not regulate chemical ingredients in imported drywall, and investigations into why Chinese drywall may be emitting sulfur and other fumes are ongoing. However, theories suggest fumigants sprayed on the drywall and material inside it could be one reason.

Further, drywall is typically made from gypsum, a type of mineral that is either mined or manufactured from the byproducts of coal-fired power plants. The tainted drywall, on the other hand, may be made from fly ash, a coal byproduct that is less refined and typically used to make concrete.

In Southern states like Florida, the problem appears to be compounded by the damp climate, which is causing the gypsum to degrade even more quickly.

If your home has the odor of rotten eggs, frequent damage to your air conditioning system, wiring or pipes, or if you’ve been experiencing health symptoms such as respiratory problems, nosebleeds, headaches or irritated eyes that resolve when you leave your home, you should contact your state’s Department of Health, and also consider hiring an attorney.

Chinese Drywall is Not the Only Potentially Toxic Building Material

Home-building materials are often toxic, whether they come from China or right here in the United States. Although you may not smell, see or taste it, construction materials emit various gasses and other compounds into your home, many of which are highly toxic. Some of the worst offenders are:

  • Carpeting: Some of the "ingredients" in carpeting have been linked to cancer, while others may cause hallucinations, nerve damage, respiratory problems, thyroid damage and damage to the immune system and brain development.

  • Engineered Wood Products: Engineered wood is made by gluing together layers of fragmented wood. It may be used for cabinets, furniture, wall paneling, kitchen counters and more, but the adhesives and bonding agents it contains emit pollutants, including formaldehyde, into the air.

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  • Oil-Based Paint, Wood Finishes and Paint Strippers: Oil-based paints and stains contain potentially 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens, according to a John Hopkins University study. Among them are alkyl resin, kerosene, lead, lithopone, mercury, methylene chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, mineral spirits, toluene, trichoroethane and xylene. Paint strippers, which are required to remove oil-based paint (and to clean brushes, etc.), also contain toxic and highly volatile chemicals such as methylene chloride, toluene, acetone and methanol.

  • Insulation: Most people are aware of the dangers of asbestos in insulation, but even standard fiberglass insulation can be dangerous. Bits of fiberglass can be toxic if inhaled (some have compared their dangers to those of asbestos), and many varieties also contain formaldehyde that can be released into the air.

Toxic materials like these are part of the reason why the Environmental Protection Agency says that indoor air can be two to five times (and even up to 100 times) more polluted than outdoor air.

Because of this, having a high-quality air purifier is now as essential as having locks on your doors. But choosing a high-quality air treatment system can be a cumbersome task, given the numerous models on the market (and their quality varies drastically). Fortunately, has done the research for you and identified a top-of-the-line system that we believe every home should have.

The PIONAIR Air Treatment System uses photocatalysis, which is designed to oxidize organic odors, germs, and fungi. The PIONAIR technology creates ultraviolet light rays, safe levels of ozone, and passive negative ions as part of your air treatment. This is not just any old air filter -- it is an air purifier that duplicates Nature's own methods of air cleaning and revitalization.
The PIONAIR SMART POINTE is effective against particulate such as pollen, dust, pet dander, and smoke, AS WELL AS mold, mildew, organic odors, and chemical vapors (such as formaldehyde).

Adding an effective air treatment system such as PIONAIR to your home is a simple step, yet one that could go a long way to protect your family’s health.

Recommended Reading

Dangerous Toxic Fumes from Six Everyday Products that You Most Want to Avoid

The Five Home Construction Materials that Pose the Highest Health Risk to You

Sources March 18, 2009 March 23, 2009

Yahoo News April 11, 2009

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