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Will Chinese Drywall VOC Issue Affect Flooring?

Christopher P. RameyChinese drywall shares commonalities with flooring, particularly as it relates to VOCs.

If you’re new to the flooring industry you may be surprised to learn that last decade it was necessary for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to anoint carpet as a safe product. The proclamation was due to flawed tests perpetrated against the carpet industry by Anderson Laboratories.

But the issue isn’t dead if you search the Internet. There are still sites that support Anderson Labs. Even a "green" industry site writes “A rash of alleged health problems with carpet have yet to be properly explained, suggesting that all carpets, and especially the less expensive synthetics, should be used with great caution.”
The drywall industry is going through a similar experience.

Two major differences:
1. They’ve pinpointed it to some drywall made in China.
2. It’s true and real, and no one is suggested it isn’t destroying homes and people’s lives.

The odor is acidic and the VOCs make people seriously ill. Furthermore, it corrodes electric wiring; destroys plumbing, renders air conditioners, washers and dryers, refrigerators and every metal appliance worthless.

There are only ~1200 complaints to date according to The Wall Street Journal. Although 24 states are involved, three quarters of the complaints come from Florida. Expectations are that over 100,000 homes are affected. Lennar Corp says they’ve put aside $40 million to repair homes it’s built. [add link to article]

But, there’s a dirty little secret that may be obvious to you. Why so few homes if they’ve installed Chinese drywall in tens of thousands homes? The answer is because the cause isn’t just drywall. My friend and globally recognized Chinese drywall expert Karen Scott, from Asset Advisors tells me that there is speculation that something else in the home is emitting VOCs that combined with the caustic Chinese drywall and heat and humidity is causing or exacerbating the problem. It could be the paint, countertops or cabinets. But, it is likely something.

No one yet has pointed a finger at carpet, hardwood or ceramic. But, you can be sure that lawyers hired by Chinese drywall companies have hired “independent” laboratories to test every product in the home to deflect their guilt. To that point, Georgia Pacific has already been named in a lawsuit and they neither manufacture or source drywall in China. Perhaps that’s the point.

The issue is the Chinese government and drywall industry have the capacity to ensure another product is complicit. Be forewarned, flooring is an easy and obvious target.


Christopher P. Ramey
President, Affluent Insights
Chairman, The Luxury Marketing Council Florida

Added 9/21/09: In a desert's town walls, an ever deeper mystery from

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  1. The first Chinese drywall lawsuit begins this month and here is some good information on this ongoing issue: Among other problems, people living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory, and sinus problems in addition to problems in their homes such as awful odors and metal corrosion. Some 500 million pounds of Chinese drywall were imported into the U.S., impacting about 100,000 homes.

  2. Cynthia, thank you for your comment and insights. Please keep us in the loop as the issue progresses.

  3. Chinese drywall testing has taken a huge step forward. Finally, a company is offering an insured testing protocol for Chinese drywall. You can see more at

    There is no mention of flooring as a culprit yet, and this site is pretty comprehensive. If a home has Chinese drywall, I am sure that carpet has to be removed. What about hardwood? Ceramic?

  4. Thank you for the continuing interest in the subject. I referred back to my friend Karen Scott, the preeminent expert on the drywall issue, on your questions about hardwood. She tells me that the general consensus is that it’s okay to leave ceramic floors if they’ve been protected during demolition and then during remodeling. Hardwood is porous and there are concerns materials absorbing gas from the drywall. You’ll likely have to let the house sit empty for a period of time so that the people administering the protocol can make sure all off gassing stops.

    She adds, “Something the flooring industry needs to be watching is that the last report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s environmental consultant stated that they saw a definite correlation between corrosive sheetrock, high humidity or inefficient air conditioning systems and hydrogen fluoride gas in relation to formaldehyde.” If there is formaldehyde in any flooring, they could be contributing to the problem.

    “Remember, not all Chinese drywall off gasses corrosively. Also, we are finding more and more evidence of American manufactured or labeled sheetrock also off gassing corrosively.”

    Karen also asked “Did you hear about the family in Orlando that had problems with imported wood flooring with high formaldehyde content? Apparently, they had some Chinese drywall symptoms (caused by Chinese hardwood). Fox 35 ran a story… The contractor was being sued for directing them to a cheaper wood flooring material imported from China.”

    Clearly, flooring isn’t out of the woods yet either.

  5. great site :) thanks for sharing the write up :)


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