How to test your home for Chinese drywall starts with identifying whether your home meets certain criteria for being at-risk. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), reports have been filed from 38 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico from residents who believe their homes have been adversely affected by the presence of drywall imported from China. The majority of these reports came from residents of the state of Florida. Other reporting states include California, Wisconsin, Texas and the New England region.
The Florida State Health Department has compiled a self-assessment guide to help homeowners determine if testing is warranted. The answer to each of the following questions from this guide must be yes in order for the home in question to be considered in need of further testing.
1. Was your home built, renovated, or repaired with drywall since 2001?
2. Has blackened corrosion been found on the copper components of your air conditioning unit, or has the unit had multiple instances of evaporator coil failure?
3. Has blackening been found on wiring, electrical outlets, or other copper plumbing components inside the home?
If you answered yes to all three questions you are advised to seek professional testing to confirm.
The investigation into concerns associated with chemicals inside Chinese drywall has been ongoing since 2009 by both federal and state agencies. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CPSC is leading this investigation with support from the CDC, The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The chemicals and the potential health hazards of Chinese drywall are still under investigation. As recently as August 2010, the CPSC revised best practices for identifying affected drywall. It is now believed the identification of elemental sulfur in drywall samples to be more indicative of problem drywall. The presence of high levels of strontium had been previously indentified as a marker indicating the presence of the defective drywall.
Strontium is a chemical compound found in domestic and imported drywall. According to Indoor Environmental Technologies in Clearwater, Florida the amount of strontium found in domestic drywall ranges from 400 to 800 milligrams per kilogram. Samples from Chinese drywall have been reported as high as 5,000 milligrams per kilogram. The most recent statement from the CSPC, to date, states the presence of high levels of strontium only suggests the need for further testing and does not verify the presence of problem drywall.
Other commonalities within the reports submitted to the CSPC included a rotten egg smell, commonly associated with the presence of sulfur. Health concerns reported were irritated and itchy eyes and/or skin, breathing difficulties, persistent coughing, runny and/or bloody noses, sinus infections, asthma attacks and recurrent headaches.
There are no simple testing procedures to determine whether your home has Chinese drywall installed. In some cases a Made in China sticker may be found on the back of drywall. This in itself doesn’t verify the presence of toxic chemicals. The “Chinese Drywall Test Kits” available for purchase on the Internet are not recommended by any legitimate authority.
Common sense rules apply; if you fit the criteria and you are experiencing any health symptoms remove yourself from the home and seek medical attention. As with any health concern that has the potential to affect breathing the elderly, the very young and the medically compromised are most likely to be adversely affected.
If you have reason to believe your home is affected file a report with CPSC and contact your local health department. If visible signs of corrosion are noted around plumbing or electrical components it is recommended a licensed professional be called in.
The CPSC also recommends contacting your insurance company and your builder or remodeling contractor to discuss your concerns. If you hold a FHA mortgage there may be some help available to you if problem Chinese drywall is confirmed in your home. See this press release on the HUD website for more information.