The (Not So) Great Walls of China

drywall.JPG

The New York Times reports today that drywall imported from China and used in newly built homes in the U.S. emits fumes that can lead to headaches, nose bleeds and other nasty symptoms. Apparently, the fumes also corrode and/or turn "every piece of metal indoors" black. 

The Times goes on: "While tainted Chinese imports like toothpaste, pet food and baby formula have been quickly removed from store shelves, drywall is installed throughout homes and does not lend itself to a quick fix."

The Times was rather late to this story. Last spring the EPA tested a batch of Chinese made drywall and found it emitted not only sulfur, but also excessive amounts of strontium compounds. 

Chinese-made drywall is used in American homes because it is cheaper than American- made drywall. That is the one and only reason. But this incident leads to a question: What shortcuts are required to make a product as heavy as drywall so cheaply that it can compete in this country on price even after being shipped halfway around the globe?


Photo Credit: Flickr Users exfordy and Bone.P7

Presented by

Ellen Ruppel Shell is the co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Journalism at Boston University. She is the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In