But as New Orleans showed, preference comes with a cost.
* * *
Drywall was invented in 1916. The United States Gypsum Corporation, a association that plumb integrated 30 opposite gypsum and smear prolongation companies 14 years prior, combined it to strengthen homes from civic fires, and marketed it as a bad man’s answer to smear walls. A 1921 USG ad billed drywall as a fireproof wall that went adult with “no time [lost] in scheming materials, changing forms of labor, or watchful for a building to dry.”
Drywall didn’t locate on right away, though in a 1940s, sales grew fast interjection to a baby boom. Between 1946 and 1960, some-more than 21 million new homes were built nationwide for a tens of millions of additional babies. “People wanted white bread and confectioner’s sugar,” says Mouzon. “They wanted a neat, neat small white-boxed universe in a 1950s after a war. It done ideal clarity then.”
Today, USG is by distant a largest of a 8 gypsum manufacturers in North America. It binds around a entertain of a wallboard industry’s marketplace share and does $4 billion in sales a year. (Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet’s conglomerate, owns 27 percent of a company.) It gets a gypsum from mines or as a synthetically engineered byproduct of coal-fired energy plants. If stream prolongation rate stays constant, USG believes there’s at slightest 350 years value of gypsum accessible on Earth.
* * *
Though ideal for construction, gypsum is not famous for a environmental friendliness. Workers in gypsum mines—either above-ground quarries or pasty-white caverns—inhale a lot of gypsum dust, that a Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends contingency be singular to 15 milligrams per cubic scale during a standard workday. And areas with outworn mines are prone to belligerent collapse when aspect developments disquiet a cavities below. (The upside? Gypsum mines move jobs to communities in states that furnish a many gypsum, like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Nevada, and California.)
After gypsum is mined and made into drywall, it’s shipped out to contractors and retailers to be used for new construction. According to a EPA, once that construction is finished, many bits are sent directly to landfills. There, gypsum becomes wet, mixes with other organic materials, and turns into hydrogen sulfide, a rotten, egg-smelling gas fatal to humans in high doses. The devalue can pervert H2O and lift a acidity—a risk to sea and freshwater animals.