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Chinese Drywall Emitting Strange Odors and Causing Corrosion on Copper-bearing Materials have been Reported


As if the battered real estate market hasn’t been difficult enough on property owners, reports of drywall causing unpleasant odors and damage to building materials have surfaced. The problematic drywall, imported between 2004 and 2006, appears to be related to the presence of iron disulfide (FeS2 pyrite). Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbonyl sulfide, sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon disulfide (CS2) are also suspected as culprits.

There are also reports of Chinese drywall that was kept on barges at sea for months awaiting permission for importation to the USA. This drywall appears to have a higher than typical density and also a higher propensity to off-gas sulfur compounds.

Drywall is usually made of gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate). Therefore, sulfur is one of the main components inherently in the material. Both odorous and non-odorous drywall has sulfur in the elemental composition and the odor is not explained, therefore, by an analysis of the total sulfur content.

“The IAQ issues related to these problems is still unclear,” reported Eugenia Mirica PhD, Senior Materials Scientist at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “The EPA is investigating the severity of the problem. However, it is well know that exposure to sulfur compounds can create irritation and breathing disorders,” Dr. Mirica continued.

Analysis of the drywall can be performed checking for the presence of total iron by X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) or VOC analysis using an environmental chamber study by TO-15 approach. Copper corrosion testing can also be performed to identify and confirm the presence of substandard drywall. Sulfur odors are also produced when certain anaerobic bacteria utilize iron and other molecules for growth. Therefore, endotoxin analysis for gram negative bacterial contamination and anaerobic Plate Count may be recommended.

EMSL Analytical is a national leader in materials testing services. For more information about drywall or other special testing needs please contact EMSL Analytical at (800)220-3675 or

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a leading, national provider of environmental and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies.



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