Could Your Drywall Be Making You Ill?

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Home Renovations

A local worker making drywall in Huzhu County of Qunghai Province, China. See more home construction pictures.
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If your home was built after World War II, it’s likely that the walls are made of sheets of drywall. Prior to this period, homes generally had plaster walls. Drywall is created by pressing sheets of gypsum plaster between thick sheets of paper. It is also known as gypsum board, panel board, and Sheetrock, which is a widely-used brand name. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral that is perfect for making drywall.

Between 2001 and 2005, the United States saw an unprecedented boom in the real estate market. Builders were in high demand, real estate agents were busy, and homeowners saw their houses appreciate significantly in value. In 2005, builder income levels reached a national high of nearly $768 billion [source: NAHB]. It is therefore no surprise that building materials like drywall were in shorter supply than usual. While the United States produces around 15 million tons of drywall annually, that wasn’t enough to meet demand. Builders therefore turned to imported drywall from other countries, particularly China. Between 2004 and 2008, the United States imported approximately 550 million pounds of Chinese drywall [source: TIME].

The good news about imported Chinese drywall was that it was plentiful and inexpensive. A single sheet was eight to 15 cents cheaper than its American equivalent. For builders, this saving was multiplied by every house on the books, resulting in significant cost savings. Unfortunately, the imported drywall had some serious consequences. People began noticing peculiar smells, failing appliances, and health problems in their new homes. For a while, the cause of these anomalies was unknown, but it was eventually traced back to the imported drywall.

In the following section, we’ll examine why Chinese drywall is causing so many issues.

FAQ

1. What is drywall and how is it made?

Drywall, also known as gypsum board or plasterboard, is a construction material made from gypsum plaster and a paper or fiberglass backing. The gypsum is mined and then heated to remove the water content, which creates a dry powder that is mixed with additives and then formed into sheets.

2. Can drywall cause health problems?

Drywall itself is not harmful, but it can release harmful substances into the air if it becomes damaged or disturbed. Some common health problems associated with drywall include respiratory issues, skin irritation, and eye and throat irritation.

3. What are the signs that my drywall may be making me sick?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, or skin irritation, it may be a sign that your drywall is releasing harmful substances into the air. You may also notice a musty or moldy smell in your home.

4. How can I tell if my drywall is causing health problems?

If you suspect that your drywall is causing health problems, it is important to have it tested by a professional. They can perform an air quality test to determine if there are harmful substances present in your home.

5. What are some common substances found in damaged drywall?

Some common substances found in damaged drywall include mold, bacteria, and formaldehyde. These substances can be released into the air if the drywall is cut, sanded, or disturbed in any way.

6. How can I prevent drywall from causing health problems?

The best way to prevent drywall from causing health problems is to ensure that it is installed correctly and maintained properly. If you notice any damage or signs of mold or moisture, it is important to have it repaired immediately by a professional.

7. What should I do if I suspect that my drywall is making me sick?

If you suspect that your drywall is making you sick, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. You should also have your home tested by a professional to determine if there are any harmful substances present.

8. Can I remove damaged drywall myself?

It is not recommended to remove damaged drywall yourself, as it can release harmful substances into the air. It is best to have it removed and repaired by a professional who has the proper equipment and training.

9. How can I ensure that my drywall is safe for my family?

The best way to ensure that your drywall is safe for your family is to have it installed and maintained by a professional. You should also have your home tested for harmful substances on a regular basis.

10. Is it possible to have a completely safe home with drywall?

While it is not possible to completely eliminate all risks associated with drywall, it is possible to minimize them by taking proper precautions. This includes having your home tested for harmful substances, maintaining your drywall properly, and seeking professional help if you suspect that your drywall is causing health problems.

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