Toxic Chinese Drywall: Is It in Your Home?

Drywall hung and finished in home.

As if homeowners didn’t have enough to worry about, they can now add toxic gases emitted by imported Chinese drywall to the list. Increasing evidence indicates that some of the over 500 million pounds of drywall shipped to the U.S. from China during the housing boom following Hurricane Katrina contained potentially toxic materials that can release gases believed responsible for damaging homes and causing health problems.

Risks to Health and Home

Some homeowners with Chinese drywall report a strong sulfur smell, similar to that of rotten eggs, permeating their homes. Health problems are said to include headaches, respiratory ailments, irritated eyes, and nosebleeds. In addition, the toxic gas is thought to be responsible for corroding copper and tarnishing silver, resulting in the failure of everything from computers and TVs to air conditioners and refrigerators. Even electrical wiring and switches have been affected, as have the silver on mirrors and jewelry.

When Imported

According to estimates, approximately 20 million square feet of Chinese drywall has been imported into the U.S. since 2004. It’s thought to have been installed in somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 homes. Problems have been reported so far in over a dozen states including Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Homeowners in Florida have been the hardest hit, with over 140 complaints received and several class action lawsuits filed.

Tests Conducted

chinese drywall
Corroded copper in refrigerator.

Tests conducted for the Florida Department of Health, found small amounts of the chemical strontium sulfide in samples of imported wallboard. When combined with humid air, trace amounts of the toxic gases hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide were released.

Tests conducted on imported Chinese drywall by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found sulfur levels from 83 to 119 parts per million (ppm). Sulfur was not detected in the samples of U.S. made drywall that were tested.

In addition, strontium was found at levels of 2,570 to 2,670 ppm in the imported drywall and 244 to 1,130 ppm in the U.S. manufactured drywall. Two organic compounds usually associated with acrylic paint were detected in the imported drywall but not found in U.S. made drywall.

Products Involved

Chinese drywall made by 20 different companies was imported into the U.S. between 2004 and 2008. Several of them—including Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT), Knauf Gips (KG), and Taishan Gypsum Co.—have been the focus of the lawsuits that have been filed to date.

What to Do

It’s impossible to determine the origin or manufacturer of installed drywall without removing sections of it, and even then, drywall is often poorly marked on the back or not marked at all. Since some imported drywall doesn’t appear to cause a problem, the best way to know if your house is at risk is the sulfur smell and by checking the copper in appliances for signs of corrosion.

Tests on samples can then be conducted to confirm the presence of contaminants. If your drywall does have a problem, there is little that can be done to alleviate it other than tearing out all the drywall out and replacing it.

Most of the defective Chinese drywall was bought in bulk by contractors and was not sold at major national home improvement chains. Many of the top U.S. manufacturers—including Georgia Pacific, National Gypsum, American Gypsum, and USG—have stated that they do not import drywall from China. While some companies label their drywall as made in the U.S., others do not give a country of origin. When in doubt, try contacting the drywall manufacturer directly.

December 15, 2011 Update

A settlement has been announced with Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., one of the suppliers of Chinese made drywall, to repair over 4,000 homes that have problems stemming from their drywall. Claims against other companies involved with tainted Chinese drywall are still not settled. You can read more at
Chinese Drywall Maker to Pay Homeowners to Settle Contamination Lawsuits.

Further Information

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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.


  1. It seems to me that China is and has been causing problem with products imported into our country for years. Are they doing this on purpose? Maybe we should wise up and make everything here. Buy USA made products. Put our own people to work.

  2. Lets hurry up and get the work done for as cheap as we can. Who cares about quality anymore. Why inspect anything? Lets also keep hiring non english speaking non american workers to do the work. Who cares how many legal workers we put out of work.

  3. This is why the union is so important in the building industry.
    From the workers to the material.
    Material Data sheets are mandatory on the jobsites, these tell the workers what they are installing and the contents of the material and come directly from the manufacturer. Where as a flag should of been raised as soon as the material hit the job site if the Data Sheets are correct.

  4. Punish USA Co’s that export jobs with “special taxes” that offset their savings; or put a high import tax on imported products that cab be made in this country.
    It’s time we take back our manufacturing and dump the greedy exec’s.

  5. I have lost all faith in the morals of China. The reasons include lead in candy (child consumer), lead in toys (child consumer), and now toxins in building materials. Chinese products should be banned from the USA.

    • Karen,
      There are several class action lawsuits in the works concerning Chinese drywall depending on where the house is located and who made the defective product. Your lawyer should be able to supply you with more information.

  6. I agree with Dan,(above) I think it’s time that Americans say “enough is enough” and stop buying anything that is not made in America, The only problem is, Most everything is made overseas now! They don’t give you much choice anymore. I think we should all take a good long look at whats going on here and try to change it. The thing we all have to remember is that it is a BUYERS market, Not a SELLERS Market.

  7. My home is loaded with the chinese drywall. I can’t afford to leave my home and go elsewhere. Insurance won’t pay and the builder is in chapter eleven. I am having to choose between my credit by walking away from my home or my health because no one knows what this is doing to us. We did everything right. Paid taxes paid the mortgage paid for insurance and now my home is worth nothing. Please help by emailing Governor Charlie Crist of Florida to send FEMA in or the Stimulus Plan to help my community and town. A whole town is about to be devastated by this

  8. Our article on Toxic Chinese Drywall has been updated to include the recently announced EPA test results that found eleveated levels of sulphur and strontium in samples of imported drywall.

  9. Have here been any reports from Tennessee ? I smell something that reeks of gas – not rotten eggs – the local gas company came out to do a test and said there was no leakage of gas found. He said it smelled like paint to him?????

  10. I found my friends in Virginia Beach living in a borrowed trailer with her family of five in their driveway. The children suffered with difficulty breathing and sinus infections. A field investigator from Consumer Product Safety Commission visited their huge beautiful home and found corroded metal components and a”rotten egg” smell. The field investigator had a rash on their arm shortly after being in the home. FEMA should provide living quarters for this family until this MAJOR problem can be solved. In the mean time, they must continue paying their mortgage. Uncle Sam knows about this problem in many states but must be hard of hearing because no action has been taken.

  11. We have been running into this problem since late 2006. Not all wallboard from China has this problem, so the xenophobia (and union-ophilia) above are at best unhelpful.

    Lab tests of bulk drywall can positively identify the problem material. Air testing has been a disappointment, to say the least. The building should first be assessed by a professional, such as a certified industrial hygienist (CIH; disclosure – I am a CIH), consultant, qualified home inspector, engineer, or other professional before any testing is done or remedy proposed.

    The Florida Department of health actually has a very good case definition on their site, with pictures;

    This problem may fall under the builder’s warranty, and you should attempt to pursue a remedy in cooperation with the builder if he or she is still in business. You should NOT attempt to diagnose or treat this problem yourself.

    • Vince,
      Thanks for the thoughtful analysis from a professional in the field. You are correct that not all Chinese wallboard has problems, and there have been a number of other defective products from other countries (including the U.S.) as well.

  12. One more note – the EPA report narrative states that the problem drywall contains 119 ppm of sulfur and non-problem drywall contains none.

    This is incorrect. Drywall, also known as gypsum wallboard, is made principally of calcium sulfate, which is roughly 18% sulfur by weight, hard to square with the EPA report unless they are referring to free sulfur, it isn’t clear at all that that is the case.

    Our lab’s approach recognizes that looking for sulfur in drywall is like looking for hay in a haystack. Other elements (iron, aluminum, magnesium, phosphorus, strontium) and gases (carbon disulfide, carbonyl sulfide) associated with the problem material are better indicators.

  13. Might be that I am paranoid ,,, trying to figure out if I have Chinese Firewall,,,house was finished in June of 2005 or earlier… 1. There is no smell 2…Copper in Electrical Outlets is not bright,, (about the color of a penny that is a couple years old) .but in no way black …..3…Air Conditioner still works…dont see much copper but some of the copper in the connections are still bright copper color…Fixtures in bathrooms are pitted but I figure that is from sulfer well water.untreated well water.light fixtures and nothing not touched by water is ok….
    some of the copper ground wires in the fuse box is tarnish about like a six year old penny, but in no way black,,mostly is just normal 6 year old copper color…have a hard time seeing the wall board,, looks like its USG then I see a small p and un something below it and its cut off after that…..I dont think I have chinese wall board but am loseing sleep over it,, bought house as investment cant afford for it to go bad…wouldnt the copper in the wall electrical fixtures turn first as they are surrounded by wall board. .I live in NE Florida

    • Hi Tallman,
      Copper oxidizes naturally to some degree under normal conditions. Based on your description, it sounds like you’re okay.

  14. i used a cheap tester i got from cost was $19.95 and i got a positive test from my remodeled room that was destroyed during hurricane charlie in 2004. i’m now having further testing done by a home inspector to confirm this. don’t know if it will help others, but this test was easy and cheap. i just had to place pins in my walls and check the results. i live in port charlotte florida.

  15. Thank god I live in Canada. Sounds rediculass I would be suwing someone. Safety Data sheets ya wright all those companys cut corners…….

  16. so what do you do if you have the drywall, you dont have the money to tear out the drywall out of your house. I have read reports that you are suppose to remove the drywall and the wiring well i might as well rebuild the whole house. Insurance doesnt’ pay, cant sell because that has to be disclosed, and lawsuits take years and only the lawyers get the money which still leaves people trying to figure out what to do if they have the drywall.

  17. So why is the US government paying for replacement? Why are US contractors paying for replacement?

    Do the Chinese hold no responsibility?
    No wonder they continue to export toxics…

    Solution: Pay more for American made products. Boycott “Made in China”

    Honestly, sheetrock is cheap, rip it out and replace it. Don’t walk away from your house.

  18. I was told by a inspector that I have chinese drywall in my master bed room and bath room so I ripped it down only to find that the drywall was made in canada by georgia pacific the drywall on the other side was then exposed it was also made by georgia pacific but was made in the usa. The wireing and plumbing on the canadian made side are black and the wireing on the made in usa side are normal. Is the georgia pacific tuffrock drywall made in Canada toxic? Well acording to what i’ve found it is. No other wires or copper in my home are black only in my master bed room and ac coils are black from the air return in master bed and bath. Has any body had any thing like this happen to them? What drywall compiany can we trust to be non toxic to put back on my walls? I know I would not put georgia pacific back in my house. good luck to every body with these toxic drywall problems. GOD BLESS

  19. Certified Chinese Drywall Testing, LLC has developed the only insurable Chinese drywall test.

    This test allows homeowners to be guaranteed that their home is free of Chinese drywall. A negative Chinese drywall test result allows the client to purchase a specialty insurance product developed by Certified Chinese Drywall Testing, LLC. This policy is assignable to potential buyers and can provide the peace of mind that makes it possible to sell a home.

    Similarly, this insurance serves as a rider to typical homeowners insurance and prevents homeowners insurance companies from dropping or not renewing policies.

    These Chinese drywall tests can also be used after remediation to ensure that the work was completed correctly.

    visit for more information.

  20. in response to ryan’s entry dec 5th 2009:
    I had major toxic mold problems in my home and corrosion on copper wire/copper pipe, ect I have georgia pacific wallboard made in canada union made in canada * I hope you can tell me where to bring samples for testing-my home has been destroyed by mold and an unknown corrosive substance in the air. My dream home turned into a nightmare that I have lived since the house was built in 1999. Please help any help with direction on where to have the drywall tested I am currently tearing out the drywall and am saving for testing.

  21. I have put my live savings in custom built house cape coral fl. house has taishan national gypsum drywall, I have an atty. over 2 yrs. nothing has been done yet should I get another atty? he told me China does not want to take responiibily for the problem, my builders have no assets, (but are still building houses)please tell me what to do at this point and at my age I am stuck, I have no more money, and to walk away I would be in the street.

  22. Danny, I have an attorney, the Chinese Drywall that I have is Taishan National Gypsum, which is not as I am told included in that 800 million dollar settlement.
    So I am still stuck waiting and hoping now going on 3 years.
    If you can help me in any way, please it would be very much appreiciated.
    Thank you

  23. I wanted to forward you my story and the new upcoming epidemic regarding the Chinese drywall issue in the state of Florida.

    Sun-Sentinel wrote and published my story about my situation regarding “Sellers, Realtors & Home Inspectors conspiring to sale properties with tainted Chinese drywall and failing to disclose it.,0,5349972.story

    I have filed lawsuits against the sellers, and will be filing against the Realtors, agents, and home inspectors soon. As you may or may not know, Chinese drywall Manufactured in China which causes noxious and corrosive emissions of sulfur, including damage to personal property and an extraordinary diminution of value to the home. Due to the noxious and corrosive emissions of sulfur, which poses a serious health hazard to persons living in residences with Chinese or defective drywall, the residence is not habitable. My family and young son are constantly being exposed to reactive sulfur gases resulting from this Chinese drywall problem and suffering from many symptoms which include; headaches, coughing, running noses, nausea and shortness of breath.

    The home was 90% built with Knauf Chinese Drywall from China and it was never disclosed to me, and we never received the Chinese Drywall Addendum / disclosures. I even paid $15,000 above Market value for the property. As of 2009, the National Association of Realtors in Florida established a “Chinese Drywall Addendum” to be implemented on home sale of properties built after 2004 due to the problem. This form was never provided or included on our contract. Also, after looking through our buyer/seller contract I noticed on the seller’s disclosure where it specifically states the home has no Chinese drywall or corrosion etc.

    Now, we are unable to live in the home because we are getting sick. I have a 3 year old son. We can’t sell it because its toxic and we have to move and rent out another home and can’t afford to pay mortgage on this toxic home and rent at the same time. We are in a no win situation. We will probably face foreclosure and our credit will be destroyed. I wanted to reach out to your organization so see if you would like publish OUR story. If so, feel free to contact me. I want to warn others in Florida of this growing problem that will affect many people if we don’t put a story out there about what’s going on.

    Thank you,
    Elcio Pacheco Jr.

  24. I have the same problem in the garrage since 2003 when the house was built by Westbrooke in Lakes of Laguna (West Palm Beach). There is a rotteneggs smell in my garrage, no way to breath there or keep the car inside (too much rust, I’ve lost a car). I’ve called the builder and they came and wash the floor… The smell is allways there. I have all kind of respiratory problems, lungs, sinus. I avoid to sleep in the bedroom up of the garrage.

  25. Hello Ms. Jameson

    You stated in your email that you used a tester from Toxicdrywalltestkit. it was $19.95 where can I get this product thank you

    Ed Reinhardt

  26. No one cares. Its just another Love Canal story. If you’re buying a home do you really believe bankers, realtors and owners are going to be honest and tell you the home your looking at has birth defecting, disease causing and cancerous materials in it? Toxic waste everywhere and no one cares because too late it’s done, it’s here too bad.


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