Jan 9, 2020 in Research

Effects of the Chinese Drywall
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Hypothesis

The Chinese drywall is a building material exported to the United States of America that poses a threat to the environmental health of the citizens. 

Abstract

The report seeks to investigate the effects of the Chinese drywall and the remedies being taken to reduce the effects. A brief history of the manufacture and installation of the Chinese drywall is discussed. The discussion focuses on the negative effects brought about by the drywall and the measures the government is taking to compensate. The study investigates the products that are used in the manufacture of the Chinese drywalls. It tries to explain the reason as to why the Chinese drywalls were used in constructing the buildings in the United States of America. Statistics estimates around two hundred and fifty thousand houses that are affected by the drywall. Research tries to investigate who will cater for the financial damages caused by the Chinese drywalls. The report identifies the health effects as well as the property damages caused by the drywall. The health effects include asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, itchiness, headaches and sore throats. Property damages involve the nonperformance of electronic devices, a decrease in the value of homes, and high costs of remediation.

 

Introduction

The main intention of the report is to survey the effects of the Chinese drywall. By studying a range of newly published books and journals on the drywall, this report can describe the rise and effects of the Chinese drywall. The Chinese drywall also known as the plasterboard is a building material made of gypsum layers. It is mainly used for ceilings and interior designs. The plaster is sandwiched between two sheets of paper and later dried in a furnace. Since the year 2001, the Chinese drywall has been an environmental hazard. The environmental hazard is brought about by manufacturing defective drywalls. The Chinese drywall contains minerals and metals like iron, strontium, and sulfur. Tests prove that the defective drywall emits harmful gasses such as hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide. These emissions cause respiratory problems like chronic coughing, difficulty in breathing and asthma attacks.

The most number of complaints in the United States of America are from the Southeast. The warm and humid climatic conditions encourage the emissions since the emissions increase with the rise in temperature and humidity. The increase in the import of the Chinese drywall is highly driven by the dramatic increase in construction of new homes. These drywalls are mainly produced by the Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Company Limited, the main producer of drywall in China. The intentions of the study are to ascertain the major effects of the drywall and how to eliminated or reduce these effects. The study also seeks to explain the cause of the defects in the Chinese drywall and the precautions that should be applied during the manufacturing. The study warns that homeowners should not presume that their home is safe because the drywall used is manufactured in the United States of America. The researchers suggest that the Chinese drywall can be found in houses with untainted drywalls.

Discussion

During the production of the Chinese drywall, higher amounts of pyrite are used. The pyrite oxidation, therefore, causes the sulfur emissions by the drywall. Also, the use of fly ash that degrades on exposure to heat and humidity is a major contribution to the negative effects of the drywall. Between the years 2004 to 2007, the construction in the United States of America was in a boom. During the period, the Chinese drywall was imported to U.S.A and used in the construction due to the shortage of the American drywall. Later homeowners complained about the corrosion of copper in their homes. The Florida Department of Health has received major complaints about the effects of the drywalls. Majority complaints came from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. The emission caused by the drywall is highly catalyzed by the high temperatures and humidity in the areas. The homeowners are advised to replace the Chinese drywalls and other damaged copper systems. The Consumer Product Safety Commission educates the homeowners about the signs of the drywalls that are failures in air conditioning, corrosion, and rotten egg stench. Once the drywall defect is detected, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues a process for reporting. The process to ascertain the effects of the drywall includes two steps: the first step involves threshold inquiry; after the threshold is attained the final process involves evidence collection. In the first step, the homeowners must have experienced the signs of the defective drywalls. Additionally, the Chinese drywall must have been installed between the years 2001 and 2008. However, the CPSC recommends the homeowners to look more into details so as to be sure as to whether the drywall is the real culprit. The Consumer Product Safety Commission gives conditions that must be attained. The conditions include: tests confirming the presence of copper sulfide, high levels of sulfur and strontium, copper corrosion, very high levels of sulfide gasses and the drywall must be from China. 

Doctor Patricia Williams explains that the Chinese drywall emits very toxic compound whose prolonged exposure lead to serious health problems. She continues to explain that Strontium sulfide is harmful to developing children since it has an effect on bone growth. The exposure to these gasses also leads affects the central nervous system negatively causing visual and sensory impairment. However, the Florida Department of Health tries to argue that the levels found in the Chinese drywalls are not capable of causing chronic health problems. The department supports their argument by a study on industrial workers who are exposed to sulfur gasses for about eight hours each day. Nevertheless, the level of sulfur gas that the industrial workers are exposed to is much lower than the levels present in the Chinese drywalls.

With the rise in complaints from homeowners, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study on the Chinese drywall. In the month of November the year 2009, the CDC compared forty-one homes with ten control homes within the same place. It was reported that a strong association existed between the Chinese drywalls and the sulfide gas levels in the complaints homes. The increase in lawsuits against the Chinese drywalls caused the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax relief for the affected families.

Statistics estimates a possibility of over two hundred and fifty thousand affected houses in the United States of America. The disaster is a national calamity estimated at being the most costly in the history of America. The matter of who will pay for the disaster is still an unanswered question in the nation. The insurance companies have declined the responsibility of compensating homeowners for the defects. Similarly, the building contractors argue that they are not responsible for the defects and that the only party left to blame is China. The Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) insists that they will not be involved in catering for the damage since it is not a calamity caused by natural disasters. However, the government is trying to raise funds to help the in repairing the affected houses since the cost is estimated to be several trillion dollars. 

The gasses emitted by the Chinese drywall causes damages to health and property. Study proves that many health problems that affect homeowners are caused by the Chinese drywalls. It includes but not limited to irritating and itchy eyes, breathing difficulties, nose bleeding, persistent coughs, runny nose, and asthma attacks. Other health problems are recurrent headaches, infections of the sinus and frequent sore throats. There is, however, no documented scientific research that definitively links the mentioned health risks and contaminated drywall. Health advocates link nevertheless suspect a casual does exist between the health risks and contaminated drywall. It might be derived from the observation that consumers report that symptoms disappear or lessen when they are away from home, and then reappear or get worse when they are at home. It still calls for the exclusion of other factors that may lead to the symptoms for the theory to remain valid. Plaintiffs must prove that they are not exposed to any other potential causes when making their complaints.

Consumers claim that the Chinese drywalls cause damages on the property. The consumers complain that the corroding drywalls causes the electronic devices to fail. The household appliances that are affected include televisions, video games, refrigerators, air conditioners, and dishwashers. The homeowners often suffer incremental costs of remediation associated with the destruction of electronic devices.

It is consequential that the market value of the houses is suspected to have contaminated drywall decreases thereby leading to an actual or apparent loss in case the homeowner sells his or her home. The houses attract lower prices in comparison to the ones that have uncontaminated drywall. It may also affect the borrowing power of the homeowner where the home is used as collateral to seek to finance.

The analysis tries to establish the difference in chemical compositions in Chinese drywalls and non-Chinese drywalls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) puts its main focus on the related health effects of the people living in homes that have the Chinese drywalls. During the statistical analysis, the CPSC concluded that the concentrations of iron and calcium were almost the same in both the Chinese and non-Chinese drywalls. Soluble sulfides were never detected in these drywalls. However, Chinese drywalls consisted of high levels of strontium and sulfur. On the other hand, the drywalls manufactured in the United States of America showed no traces of sulfur. In Table 1, research is conducted on 14 sample houses and the sulfur levels are recorded. Samples one to seven are Chinese drywalls while the rest are non-Chinese drywalls. The samples between the numbers one to seven are samples of the Chinese drywall while from eight to thirteen are drywalls manufactured in the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada. The data in the table indicates high levels of sulfur in the Chinese drywalls with concentrations being above 100mg/kg. On the other hand, all the non-Chinese drywalls recorded very little traces of sulfur. The statistical analysis, therefore, leads to a conclusion that the Chinese drywalls were defective and contained very high volumes of sulfur. 

Table 1: Measurements of sulfur contents in the drywalls

Sample number

Sulfur in Gypsum (mg/kg)

1

36

2

56

3

182J

4

379

5

213

6

175

7

15

8

<7.78

9

<7.78

10

<7.78

11

<7.78

12

<7.78

13

<7.78

14

<7.78

Conclusion

The report has discovered that the Chinese drywalls were exported to the United States of America to cater for the increasing constructions that were taking place in the nation. The drywalls manufactured in the United States were not enough to cater for the demand. The defects in the Chinese drywalls are as a result of high levels of sulfur in the manufacturing process. The high volumes of sulfur in the drywalls lead to the emission of harmful sulfide gasses that cause health problems to the homeowners as well as damage other properties. The research identified the effects of the drywalls including asthma attacks, sore throats, headaches, breathing difficulties, damaging electronic appliances, the decrease in the value of the homes, and increase in the costs of repairing. The defective Chinese drywalls have brought about the heavy financial loss to the homeowners. The loss is estimated at trillion dollars yet organizations are not ready to offer some help to the homeowners. Insurance companies argue that they are not responsible for covering the loss as the Federal Emergency Management Association argues that the loss is not caused by a natural calamity. The building contractors say they are not to blame for installing the defective drywalls. However, the government of the United States of America feels that it owes some support to the affected citizens. The homeowners have tried to sue the Chinese companies for selling defective products. Suing the Chinese manufacturers, however, becomes hard because the drywalls have no company names on them. The research shows that the building contractors should be keen on the materials they install in houses. Researchers’ should also ensure that they conduct detailed studies on products to avoid problems that come as a result of omitted information. The report, therefore, identifies the Chinese drywall as an environmental hazard that has brought about a non-forgettable loss to the nation of America. The statistics concluded that the Chinese drywalls contained high volumes of sulfur that is harmful to the human health and could also cause damages to other properties in the homes.

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