When is drywall a problem?
Although there have been concerns about contaminated drywall emitting sulfur gases, there is little evidence to prove that uncontaminated drywall is linked to serious health risks.
The Whole Story
Drywall (gypsum board) is used in North American construction as a faster alternative to plaster and wood . Drywall is made of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate), paper, and additives such as mica, clay, and resin. Installation in plasterboard generates gypsum and silica dust, irritating to the lungs.
Workers should wear personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, gloves, and dust masks when handling drywall. Water-damaged drywall loses its strength and can form mold.
After the very active hurricane season in 2004 and 2005, there was a shortage of American-made drywall due to the construction and reconstruction of new homes. Some suppliers have increased their imports of drywall from China to meet demand. Unfortunately, some of the imported drywall was contaminated with toxic chemicals.
In 2008, Florida homeowners began reporting upper respiratory irritation in their newly built homes. Many reported a decrease in symptoms when they left home and a recurrence of symptoms when they returned. Reported symptoms included headache, itchy and irritated eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, runny nose, sinus infections and congestion, sore throat, nosebleeds frequent and asthma attacks.
Some residents have reported a strong sulfur smell and premature corrosion or deterioration of certain metals (especially copper) in their homes, such as air conditioner coils and electrical wiring. Not all homes with drywall issues had China-made drywall.
Some problematic homes had drywall made in North America and some had drywall with no indication of origin. “Problematic drywall” refers to all affected drywall, regardless of country of origin.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) defines "problem drywall" as meeting the following criteria:
Step One: Visual inspection must show blackening copper wire or A/C evaporator coil AND drywall installed between 2001 and 2009.
Step Two: Drywall installed between 2005 and 2009 must have at least two of the following. For installations between 2001 and 2004, at least four of the following must be met (* indicates lab testing required):
Elemental sulfur in drywall core*
Black copper sulfide on labels, ground wires and/or conditioning coils*
Chinese markings on plasterboard
High sulfide emissions gases from gypsum board*
Corrosion Induced by Drywall in Test Chambers*
In late 2009, the CPSC concluded that there was a "strong association between Chinese drywall and the corrosion and pipe threads reported by thousands of homeowners across the United States.
The issue was fixed in 2011 and now all drywall must be tested for volatile sulfur before it can be sold in the United States
If the drywall is ingested or gets in the eyes
If you think someone ingested Placoplâtre, don't make them vomit. Immediately check the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for assistance or call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
When drywall dust gets into the eyes, irritation, redness, or scratching may occur on the surface of the eye. Serious eye damage is unlikely, but eyes should be flushed immediately. Remove contact lenses and use plenty of room temperature water.
For babies, pour a little water on the bridge of the nose and gently run it into the eyes. Encourage blinking.
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