Toxic Drywall in Calgary?

MadeinChinaProblem Overview: “The issue of toxic Chinese drywall may well become the biggest environmental crisis to hit North American homeowners and builders in decades.”

Who is affected?

Hundreds of millions of sheets of the defective drywall were imported into the United States between 2001 and 2007. It has been reported in as many as 14 states, and may have been used in an estimated 100,000 renovated and newly-built homes, with up to 40,000 in Florida alone.

In addition, an estimated 929,000 square metres arrived in Canada through Vancouver in the same period.

Much of the product imported into Canada was used in the lower B.C. mainland, but some may have reached the Prairies and as far east as Toronto (Source)

Does this pose a health hazard?

The Toronto Star article (sourced above) reports: “The defective Chinese drywall emits toxic hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide and other gases. It is believed that humidity in the air causes the sulphur in the drywall to off-gas, or migrate into the indoor air. This creates a noxious odour, and can result in serious health conditions and illnesses, such as breathing problems, eye irritation, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, sore throat, bloody nose, and headaches.”

Remediation Methods?

Houses built or renovated with contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. The only possible fix for affected homes is to have the owners move out for several months, gut the house and rebuild the interior. Anything inside the house that may have been contaminated by the sulphur gases will also have to be destroyed and replaced.

Industry watchers have estimated that as few as three sheets of drywall in a house can be enough to contaminate it to the point of making it uninhabitable – Toronto Star

Self-Assessment Guide
Florida’s Division of Environment Health has put together this self-assessment guide.

1) Odors Does the home, or certain rooms have either a sulfur-like odor or other unusual odors? If there is a “rotten-egg” like odor or “sewer-gas” smell, verify that they are not from the home’s water, or a sewer problem. Sometimes sulfur odors can be noticed from water heaters that have sat unused for a long time.

2) Recurring and costly A/C Problems. Have there been repeated failures of the A/C evaporator coil (located in the air handler unit)? This type of failure is due to a black corrosion of the coil resulting in leakage of Freon from the system, making it impossible to cool the home, requiring replacement of the coil. Many of the effected homes have had to replace their AC coil numerous times and the coils last two years or less instead of the normal 10 to 20 years.

3) Corrossion of metallic surfaces in the home. If you cannot see your AHU’s compressed Freon Line, other signs of metal corrosion may be observable. Look around the home for corrosion on other copper and metal surfaces.

Corroded Shut-off Valve

Corroded Shut-off Valve

Normal Shut-off Valve

Normal Shut-off Valve

4) Drywall Made in China. Identifying drywall made in China may be the most difficult and possibly inconclusive. This requires cutting holes in walls to find printed markings on the back side of drywall that says ‘Made in China.’ Finding those markings are not guaranteed. Homes can have drywall from multiple manufacturers, American and imported. Should you have the odors described in step one and notice they are strongest in a particular room of the house, you should consider hiring a building inspector, contractor or other building professional look in that room first. It is possible that the imported drywall was installed on the ceiling. You can look under the insulation in your attic space for the markings. . The pictures below are markings typically found on drywall made in China

Made in China

Made in China

Imported drywall with "Knauf Tianjin" markings

Imported drywall with "Knauf Tianjin" markings

5) Hire a professional inspector to confirm the presence of corrosion on Electrical Wiring or A/C Coils You should hire a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s electrical system. An inspection of the home’s electrical wiring should reveal normal copper color on the un-insulated ground wires located in the main breaker panel, in light switches, and in electrical outlets around the home as depicted in the image on the left. Should the electrician find black corrosion as seen in the image below, that is a strong indicator of the corrosion often seen in homes with Chinese drywall.

Corroded Wires

Corroded Wires

Normal Wiring

Normal Wiring

I contacted one home inspector and they’ve said they’ve been on the lookout for it in Calgary for a few months but haven’t seen any Chinese drywall yet.  CREB will be monitoring the issue as well.

Sources:
Chinese Drywall Under Study in US - CBC News, June 3, 2009
Chinese Drywall Creating Crisis, Toronto Star, June 20, 2009
Drywall has China Defensive, Herald Tribune, April 25, 2009
US Senators Call For Chinese Drywall Probe, Asia Times, June 24, 2009

Mike Fotiou
Associate Broker
First Place Realty

5 responses to “Toxic Drywall in Calgary?

  1. Just found this clip on Youtube – an “investigative” report on Chinese Drywall from the US. I had to shake my head at the reporter at 1:40.

    Then fast forward a few months to June 2009 – same reporter, same company.

    Anyways, here are some reports from ABC News and CNN

    And here’s a news release from the Senators of Florida and Louisana who have been plagued by these events: “First Tests Find Suspect Material in Chinese Made Drywall”

    As well, legislation has been introduced (the Drywall Safety Act of 2009) to ban dangerous drywall (source)

  2. It seems a bit racist/culturalist to make a statement like “Chinese-made drywall” rather than identify specific brands or makes. Kind of like saying “Canadian-made lumber” has defects. This kind of inflammatory stuff only antagonizes people.

    Mike Fotiou says: There’s more than just one brand, and it is all manufactured in China. As the article states, some brands are identified by name (Knauf Tianjin) while other drywall is stamped simply ‘Made in China’. I’m not sure how to better state that in a PC way. If lumber from Canada had some sort of defect, you bet it would be labelled that way. When madcow was discovered in Alberta, it was “Alberta Beef” exports that were banned. etc, etc.

  3. Of course there is going to be some “Made in China” drywall in Calgary, it’s cheap and was widely available at Home Depot stores.

    Destory one’s home and posessions for just having 3 sheets of it installed? Wow, that’s toxic stuff. I imagine NO home has any resale value if it has this toxic drywall installed and just think how many renovations were done in Calgary homes from 2000-2007! That’s 1/2 the city!!

    Buyers would then be wise to look out for any of the above signs and if you see them, report them to the CREB, the selling realtor and the police (to make sure CREB and the S/R actually does something about it).

    Mike

    Mike Fotiou says: Mike, Home Depot has never sold Chinese Drywall in any of its stores in Canada or US (Source 1, Source 2) What exactly would the police do? The issue is whether it’s a latent or patent material defect. Another thing to consider, foreclosures are sold “as is, where is” with “no warranties or representations.”

  4. Mie Fotiou:

    Yes, I stand corrected. I did some research myself as well and Home Depot did not sell this product. Sorry for the mis-information.

    A lawyer or BBB complaint against a seller agent/brokerage (for non-disclosure) is more a likely action than involving the police. But the police could take a report and act upon it if it is breaking the law in any way.

    As with any large-dollar transaction buyers should should do their due-dilligence and check with the fraud squad and BBB.

    Mike

  5. Elaine Zinkhan Turnbull

    Please send a copy of this article to:

    karm.sharma@melochemonnex.com

    Thank you!

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