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Summary: An interesting side issue has arisen from the hurricanes of 2005. At the time, supplies of drywall were running low. The country had been through a housing boom and the destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita left ready construction materials in short supply. As a result, the construction industry turned to supplies of drywall made in China to supplement their limited supplies. Drywall manufactured by different companies is not identical, and problems now exist presumably from the Chinese drywall used during the supply shortage.

Tests of some Chinese drywall has shown that it gives off a rotten egg odor from volatile sulfur compounds when exposed to heat and moisture. In the presence of moisture these vapors create a corrosive environment. The average humidity in Florida is over 50 percent year round, which could account for why Florida is the leader in drywall complaints.

Topics:

Drywall

Effects

Scope

Coverages

Action

Legal aspects

Loss control

Drywall

While everyone has heard of drywall, not much thought is given to exactly what it is. Drywall is plaster made out of gypsum that is mixed with other materials, formed into boards, and dried. Gypsum is a common mineral often found in sedimentary environments, and when used in drywall provides a noncombustible core. Cotton, fiberglass, or paper is added to the gypsum powder in order to make it stronger and less likely to crack over time. Starch is added in order to help the drywall adhere to the backing paper. Once the mixture is completed, it is pressed between thick paperboard. This is true of all drywall. Gypsum naturally contains sulfur compounds.

With regard to the Chinese drywall, testing has shown that sulfur compounds are released from both the gypsum core and the outer drywall paper. It is possible that before entry into the United States the drywall was treated with insecticide or that the adhesive binding the paper to the drywall contained contaminants. Another possibility is that the Chinese drywall remained on ships at sea for months awaiting approval to enter the country. The exposure of the drywall to humid sea air and the process of evaporation of that moisture once the drywall was on land could be responsible for the off gassing. Off gassing is simply the emission of gasses from a particular substance, such as drywall or carpet. The Gypsum Association recommends that gypsum board not be exposed to high levels of moisture for extended periods of time.

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