Tainted Chinese Drywall May Have Caused Health Problems: Report

A new government report indicates that exposure to contaminated Chinese drywall used in a number of homes nationwide over the past past decade has caused a various health problems for residents.

According to a report released by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) on May 2, Chinese-made drywall imported into the United States five to ten years ago may emit sulfur compounds that cause headaches, fatigue, respiratory problems and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

In late 2008 or early 2009, media reports began to focus on the growing number of homeowners throughout the United States who were experiencing foul smells and corrosion of appliances throughout the homes, which were linked to drywall installed in their homes since 2003.

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Subsequent investigations by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) linked the problems to the release of high levels of sulfur compounds used to manufacturer certain drywall products made in China, which were imported during a shortage of U.S.-made drywall because of a housing boom and series of hurricanes that struck the southeastern United States. 

Many of the problems with the Chinese drywall have been confirmed by laboratory testing. However, questions about the possible health effects remained unanswered.

Some home owners of structures with the tainted Chinese drywall complained that the fumes from the sheetrock caused headaches and other problems, but this is the first report to verify those complaints.

Researchers from ATSDR, a division of the CDC, worked with scientists from Georgia Tech, and found that the level of sulfur emissions from Chinese drywall was high enough to cause the health problems affected home owners had complained about for years. However, the report also found that the risk is diminishing over time.

“Sulfur compound emissions from drywall samples decreased between the 2009 and 2010 testing. This suggests that emissions likely were higher when the drywall was first manufactured in 2005 and 2006. Exposures may have been higher when the drywall was newly manufactured and installed,” a fact sheet (PDF) released by ATSDR indicates. “The available data cannot be used to determine if people are still being exposed to sulfur compounds at levels that could cause health effects.”


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