Natural gypsum is mined; synthetic gypsum (also known as “recaptured” gypsum) is a by-product recaptured during the pollution-reduction incentives (stack scrubbing) of coal-fired electricity generation plants.
Gypsum by-products would be sent to the landfill if wallboard manufacturers did not purchase them. Manufacturers are branding these wallboards as “Green” due to combining the synthetic gypsum with recycled paper facings, and the ability to locate manufacturing facilities near major markets away from mines.
A recent class action lawsuit filed against Georgia-Pacific Gypsum and 84 Lumber Company on behalf of Florida homeowners Mike and Jill Swindler will soon bring American wallboard into the spotlight with Chinese drywall.
The lawsuit asserts that the “ToughRock” was made with synthetic gypsum rather than natural gypsum which is what drywall has been made from for decades.
“When synthetic gypsum is used to manufacture drywall, the end product contains excessive amounts of sulfur-based pollutants,” the suit maintains. “When the exterior of Florida homes containing synthetic gypsum drywall become heated due to normal Florida temperatures, the air temperature inside the wall cavity between the outer shell of the home and the inner drywall becomes significantly elevated. These elevated temperatures combined with Florida’s humidity cause sulfur dioxide gas to be released … [causing] significant oxidation of various metals that lie in close proximity to the drywall.”
GP and 84 “had a duty to exercise reasonable care in inspecting, marketing, and/or selling drywall placed into the stream of commerce, including a duty to assure that the product would perform as intended and would not cause and/or did not cause damage as described herein,” the suit asserts. “Defendants breached their duty by failing to exercise ordinary care.”
The suit alleges GP and 84 broke Florida’s statute regarding the drywall’s “implied warranty of merchantability,” as well as a statute dealing with “breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.”
The Swindlers, since completeing their home in 2006, have replaced six coils in two air handlers due to copper corrosion and have had problems with their microwave, dishwasher, television and fire alarm.
Georgia Pacific released this statement: “We are disappointed that they elected to pursue a lawsuit without first informing us of their concerns, ..We stand behind the quality of our products and take customer complaints seriously.”
Is this the same problem caused by Chinese drywall?
The process of “scrubbing” the smokestack emissions creates calcium sulfate, or gypsum, which can then be used to make drywall. In the U.S., according to the U.S. Gypsum Association, American manufacturers gather the gypsum from the smokestack process after the scrubbing, which produces a cleaner product, and is believed to be safe. But in China, the suspicion is fly ash may have been obtained earlier in the process, thus creating a product with additional chemical components.