Chinese drywall in Pearl River County

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The first report of Chinese drywall suspected to contain high amounts of sulfur in Pearl River County has been confirmed.

Corrosion of the copper and aluminum components of the home have been observed and the presence of drywall from China was also noted. The two factors are believed to be related.

Local home inspector and builder Charles Lee said he was called out to a home in Round Rock Subdivision on Wednesday after a local air conditioning company had to replace coils in the home. The home is less than three years old.

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Lee said the home was built in 2006 and already needed a new air conditioning condensing coil. An analysis of the damage to the air conditioning coil by Rheem led the company to suspect it was caused by a chemical reaction.

An inspection conducted by Lee, which included pictures, found heavy black corrosion on the copper components on the water heater and electrical wiring. Lee also described a strong odor in the house, suspected to be from the chemicals released from the drywall.

“It’s in our area, that’s sad to say,” Lee said.

Reports of similar incidents have been reported in other southern states, such as Florida and Louisiana, where homes have been built or repaired with drywall from China. This report is the first in Pearl River County, and Lee said he expects to see more.

The gypsum board is suspected to have come in to the area after Hurricane Katrina when drywall became scarce. Lee believes it was trucked in from Florida by unsuspecting developers.

Craig Fissell of Home Depot public relations said Home Depot has never stocked drywall from China. He said the company tends to stock only American made drywall.

Charles Quick of Quick and Grice said he is not aware of his store ever stocking drywall from China, and he does not buy drywall directly from China. At this point he has no plans to order any either.

“I don’t think anybody would,” Quick said. “I’m sure if they had some from China now they wouldn’t be selling it anymore.”

Representatives with Phillips Building Supply did not return a phone call by press time Tuesday.

Lee said the drywall in question at the Round Rock home had an ASTM International stamp. Stamps from that company signify the product meets all regulations in order to be installed in American homes. Lee said he had a follow-up conversation with the president of ASTM who told Lee in an e-mail that his company did not place any such stamp on the drywall, leading Lee to suspect the stamp is fraudulent. Currently, Lee expects the drywall and other affected components in the home in Round Rock need to be replaced.

Lee said there has been a report of another home in the county with faulty wiring and electrical outlets.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a fire issue or what,” Lee said.

Homeowners who suspect they may have drywall from China in their homes should look for corrosion on their air conditioning components, door knobs, mirrors and wiring. Checking the wiring can be done by simply removing the receptacle covers and looking for black corrosion on the exposed copper wire, Lee said. Also, inspection of the back of the drywall could show where it was manufactured. He said such an inspection can easily be done from the attic.