Carbon disulfide is a colorless liquid which can smell like organic matter, sometimes rotting vegetation, depending on the purity. Carbon disulfide is used in a number of industrial or manufacturing processes to make products such as rayon, cellophane plastics and tires but recently was discovered to be causing illness in people whose homes or businesses were constructed with Chinese drywall.
Drywall or sheetrock which had been imported from China was found to contain unhealthy amounts of carbon disulfide which was then evaporating and outgassing to release fumes into the inside of buildings. A number of people who suffered from carbon disulfide fumes have considered filing lawsuits.
People who have been exposed to carbon disulfide may experience:
- Changes in breathing patterns
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood changes
- Blurred vision
- Changes in consciousness
Decades of Hazardous Fumes from Carbon Disulfide
Carbon disulfide is considered one of the most dangerous types of industrial fumes but is also one of the most useful chemicals. It has been in use for decades in manufacturing but unlike other chemicals, its danger has been clearly established for much of that time.
Rubber and Cellophane
When carbon disulfide was used in the 1900s for the production of rubber, it was known to cause violent, maniac-like behaviors by its employees. Rather than help their employees, manufacturers would place irons bars over the windows, so employee couldn’t jump to their deaths. Between the years of 1925 through 1931, there were sixteen reported cases of rubber manufacturing poisoning in Great Britain.
Shortly thereafter, the same industrial fume exposure was identified as coming from another manufacturing process: the production of transparent packing paper, cellophane. In the U.S. DuPont had exclusive rights to cellophane manufacturing, which led the company to increase in value by 50-fold over the following decade, even increasing in profits during the Great Depression.
In the textile and fabric industry, because of its value, silk was a most desirable target for substitution. Several successful methods of synthesizing silk were perfected in quick succession. One called the viscose method allowed conversion of an abundant and cheap starting material, cellulose pulp from ground up wood into a finished textile product rivaling silk. It proved to be a chemically intensive process and entirely dependent on carbon disulfide.
Production of artificial silk, led by the viscose process, was the chemical industry’s premier mass-market success in the twentieth century where manufacturing expanded a hundred-fold.
The first cases of carbon-disulfide disease were reported even before the name, Rayon coined by the Americans, was invented.
Workers were subject to strong industrial fumes in the churning rooms. One poisoning due to rayon staple manufacturing described a forty-year-old man who began working in the industry in April 1936 and one year later was so intoxicated that he was hospitalized with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Chinese Drywall Manufacturing
By 1960s, the rayon market in the U.S. had stagnated—but found room for growth in Asia. The Japanese began to export their rayon manufacturing to Korea, which experienced its own epidemic of carbon disulfide poisoning in the years that followed and resulted in specialized hospitals opening solely for treatment of carbon disulfide poisoning.
China also joined the rayon boom in a big way by receiving some of its initial production machinery as hand-me-downs from the Koreans, thus perpetuating a chain of toxic industrial recycling. Though the process is not well-described, Chinese drywall manufacturers may have led to a flood of contaminated sheetrock entering the U.S. market after a number of hurricanes led to a shortage of American made construction materials.
Between 2004 and 2007, after nine hurricanes hit the Gulf coast, including Katrina, Rita and others, a construction boom led to the import of 550 million pounds of Chinese gypsum wall board or sheetrock. This amount was enough to build 60,000 homes and was later discovered to be contaminated with a number of chemicals including carbon disulfide.
Homeowners complained of copper and other metal corrosion but a number of serious health effects which were occurring as well. Many of these affected homeowners may have filed class action or other carbon disulfide lawsuits against construction companies, suppliers and manufacturers.
In addition to tire and rubber manufacturing, cellophane and rayon, and construction materials, carbon disulfide has been used in packaging for food products, as a grain fumigant, and in other processes. Each time a new contamination event s discovered, a new wave of epidemiological studies has identified additional health risks.
Links have been found to Parkinson’s disease, hardening of the arteries, cerebral vascular disease, stroke, and heart disease in addition to more readily acknowledged effects such as lung damage, nerve damage and illness.
Instead of being a toxin and air pollutant of the past, carbon disulfide is still with us, still widely used and is still consistently among the top EPA-listed toxic-release air contaminants year after year.
In 2010, hundreds of homes were repaired due to contaminated drywall and some residents were offered settlements for up to $100,000. Other carbon disulfide lawsuits may have covered personal injury in addition to property damage.
If you or a family member has been exposed to carbon disulfide due to work or at home and suffered adverse side effects, you should contact a physician immediately. In some cases, victims of carbon disulfide fumes have been able to seek compensation for their injuries or property damage, but you should seek legal assistance before signing anything.
Contact us regarding Carbon Disulfide poisoning; attorney consultations are free.