Chinese Drywall: Health Problems and Property Damage

China-manufactured drywall has been linked to health problems and metal corrosion in homes.

By , Attorney · Northwestern University School of Law
Updated by David Goguen, J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Since as far back as 2006, problems related to the use of China-manufactured drywall in the building of new homes in the U.S. have prompted legal claims for personal injury and property damage. In this article, we'll look at:

  • the scope of the problem with China-manufactured drywall
  • health issues linked to the drywall, and
  • your options if—this long after the issue was first reported—you think you have a legal claim for contaminated drywall in your home.

How Big Was the Drywall Problem?

Most of the contaminated drywall was installed in 2006 and 2007 following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when a spike in home construction caused a shortage of U.S.-made drywall.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received complaints from homeowners in 44 states, although the bulk of reports come from Florida, Louisiana and several other states in the south and southeast.

By around 2015, almost 4,000 homeowners had reported that drywall imported from China had caused health problems and metal corrosion in their homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's suspected that thousands of additional homes were built using a combination of China-manufactured and U.S.-made drywall, but the exact figures aren't known.

What Are Signs of Contaminated Drywall Problems?

The contaminated drywall has high levels of sulfur, Homeowners with contaminated drywall have typically noticed:

  • a rotten egg smell within the home
  • corrosion or blackening of pipes and other metal items within the walls or protruding from the walls
  • frequent failures of air conditioning units and other appliances and electronics, and
  • health problems such as asthma, coughing, headaches, sore throats, and irritated eyes.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued guidelines for identifying contaminated drywall, recommending a two-step process: first a threshold inquiry and then, if the threshold is met, a further investigation seeking corroborating evidence.

Threshold Inspection

In order to meet the threshold inspection, homeowners must (1) have blackened copper electrical wiring or air conditioning evaporator coils, and (2) have had the drywall installed between 2001 and 2008.

Corroborating Conditions

However, because metal corrosion may be caused by many factors, the presence of blackened wiring in the home does not definitively point to contaminated drywall. So, the CPSC advises homeowners and contractors to look for further evidence that drywall is the likely culprit.

According to the CPSC, contaminated drywall is indicated if two of the below corroborating conditions are present and drywall was installed between 2005 and 2008—or if four of the below corroborating conditions are present and the drywall was installed between 2001 and 2004:

  • copper sulfide or sulfur in the home as confirmed by tests
  • drywall is marked as coming from China
  • high levels of strontium in drywall core
  • high levels of sulfur in drywall core
  • elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide, or carbon disulfide emitted from drywall when tested in a chamber, and
  • corrosion of copper metal when placed in a test chamber with drywall samples.

To learn more about the CPSC guidelines—including details about the tests and results—visit the CPSC's Drywall Information Center at

Health Problems Associated With Problem Drywall

Health problems that may be caused by contaminated Chinese drywall include:

  • irritated and itchy eyes and skin
  • difficulty in breathing
  • persistent cough
  • bloody nose
  • runny nose
  • recurrent headaches
  • sore throats
  • sinus infections, and
  • asthma attacks.

Over the years, consumers have reported that their symptoms disappeared or lessened when they were away from the home, and then reappeared or worsened when they returned.

In order to make a solid personal injury case, consumers have needed to prove that their health problems were caused by the drywall and not by other factors. Learn more about proving fault in injury-related cases.

Property Damage Caused by Problem Drywall

Contaminated drywall may also have caused property damage in homes. Let's look at some of the most common examples.

Damage to Electronics and Appliances

A number of consumers have claimed that the contaminated drywall corrodes piping and wiring, which causes electronic devices and household appliances to work intermittently, or fail completely. Examples of components and devices that may be affected by contaminated Chinese drywall include:

  • central air conditioning evaporator coils
  • refrigerators
  • dishwashers
  • televisions, and
  • gaming systems.

Costs of Remediation

Homeowners affected by contaminated Chinese drywall may find themselves saddled with large "remediation" costs—which means expenses related to:

  • inspecting the property
  • removing the contaminated drywall and
  • installing new, problem-free material.

To learn more, check out the CPSC's Remediation Guidance for Homes With Corrosion From Problem Drywall.

Decreased Home Value

Not surprisingly, the market value often decreases in homes that have—or are suspected to have—contaminated Chinese drywall.

Is It Too Late to Sue Over Problem Drywall?

With so much time likely having passed since the installation of any problem drywall in U.S. homes, if you haven't yet filed a lawsuit over related health problems or property damage, it might be too late to do so now. It's crucial to understand how the laws in your state will affect your options. Specifically, a law called a "statute of limitations" sets a limit on how much time can pass between:

  • the occurrence of a wrongful act that harms you (or your property), and
  • the starting of the lawsuit process, where you ask a court for a legal remedy for that harm.

There are different statutes of limitations (and different deadlines) depending on the basis for your lawsuit, and the legal claims you'll be making. Let's look at a few possibilities for lawsuits over problem drywall.

Drywall-related lawsuits against home builders and contractors. If you're suing a builder or contractor for personal injury or property damage (or even "breach of contract" types of claims), the statute of limitations "clock" usually starts ticking when the building project was completed (or "substantially" completed). Learn more about suing a builder for new-home defects and if it's too late to sue for construction defects found years later.

Drywall-related lawsuits against construction material manufacturers, suppliers, or sellers. These kinds of claims will usually be based on the legal concept of "product liability," and here the "clock" might not start ticking until you know (or should reasonably know) that you were harmed by the presence of contaminated drywall in your home.

The "Statute of Repose" and Drywall Lawsuits

Regardless of which statute of limitations deadline applies to your potential drywall-related lawsuit, a different law called a "statute of repose" might set an over-arching deadline that could bar you from bringing your case if too much time has passed, regardless of:

  • when the construction was completed, or
  • when you discovered that your harm was linked to the problem drywall.

The specifics depend on the law in your state.

Getting Help With a Drywall-Related Lawsuit

First things first. You'll want a definitive answer on whether you can still file a lawsuit over drywall-related problems, especially this long after the issues were first discovered. Especially if your health problems are serious, or your property damage is extensive, it's probably an issue worth discussing with a lawyer who's familiar with your state's laws. Even if it looks like the statute of limitations bars your potential lawsuit, there might be a valid legal argument for extending the lawsuit-filing period. Learn more about finding the right injury lawyer.

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