“If drywall is eating through copper that quickly, then what is it doing to us?” Emily said. Once it was pointed out by the air conditioning man, the presence of Chinese drywall was obvious Emily said. In the unfinished upstairs part of the home there are places where the backs of sheets of drywall are exposed. On the back it is clearly marked: Made in China. “The home inspector either turned a blind eye or didn’t know what that meant,” Emily said. “How could you not see that?”
Four months later, Emily still speaks from a deep sense of gratitude about the man who discovered the cause of her problems. “If there is a hero to my story it’s Jeff Crabb, the man that discovered the Chinese drywall in my home and warned me about the dangers of it.” She said. “Jeff detected it immediately. All AC repairmen in our area need training in this area, because without Jeff, I would still be oblivious and living in it, breathing it every day.”
Emily was shocked to learn of the hazardous materials in her home, but it answered a lot of questions, she said. “We were sick all winter, like really bad upper-respiratory infection. You can’t stay on antibiotics all the time, but it just wouldn’t go away,” she said. “My symptoms got worse. Very bad. Very random.” She had constant headache. Her nose ran constantly. It continued to get worse. Emily and her children all developed styes. They would go away and return. Finally, she had to have one removed from the inside of her eyelid. She would later learn that eye irritation is one of the main symptoms of being exposed to the toxic drywall. And Emily’s family wasn’t alone.
“All houses on my stree have it. They were all built at the same time, by the same man, with the same products,” she said. “We all have the same symptoms.”
Soon on the advice of her friends and members of her family, Emily moved out of what she thought was going to be her dream home. Three months after moving all of the symptoms have disappeared from Emily and her children. While the illnesses are gone, she is still saddled with the financial burden of trying to make her home livable for herself and her family. Her homeowner’s insurance will not pay to have the drywall replaced, so she’s had to pay for all the work out of her own pocket.
“I get up at 5:30 every morning and work hard.” She said. “I had a home inspection. I had my ducks in a row. I followed all of the steps. Why is there nothing in place to help people like me? Why—on a local, state, or federal level—is there not somebody to help me? like low interest home loan, or a break on my taxes. I did nothing wrong.”
Some suggested that Emily should just cut her losses, stop making payments and let the house go back to the bank. “I can’t do that,” she said. “I’ve been working on my credit since I was 18. And I took it on myself to tear my house down and have it rebuilt so my children can have a safe place to grow up.”
Emily hopes that her story will help other people who are going through the similar situations. One way to do that is to teach them how to identify the effects of Chinese drywall. One thing is to look for is the tell-tale deterioration of copper coils on an air conditioning system. The copper will be covered by black ashey, soot—like it has been in a fire—and will turn a person’s fingers black if they touch it. Another way to tell is to remove the plate and look at the wires. The Chinese drywall often turns these wires black. Also a telltale sign is the smell. “After a while it will smell like sulfur, like the house is burning.” Emily explained.
Now Emily is looking ahead to the future. Last week (as of the publication of this article) she had new drywall installed in her home. This time it is stamped with the words: “Made in America.”