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February 17, 2019

Three firms get nod to make gypsum building materials

THREE companies have gotten approval to manufacture building materials made from gypsum in Kenya, in the wake of several artificial imports suspected to be contaminated.

Kenya Bureau of Standards has said Erdemann Gypsum, Deco Dura Creations and Shazaad are certified to manufacture gypsum products which include boards, plasters, cornices, corners and medallions.

Erdemann Gypsum has two licences; one for its Sh500-million factory in Kitui where it mines gypsum for production of boards and plasters and the second for its operations in Athi River where it manufactures gypsum cornices, corners and medallions.

Kebs said it uses international standards to monitor quality of gypsum building materials. Kebs communications manager Patricia Kimanthi said the bureau uses the American Society for Testing and Materials' Standards and European Standards Specification for gypsum board, binders and plasters.

Last month, Edermann raised alarm over health dangers posed by imported gypsum products suspected to be made from harmful industrial by-products.

Gypsum is a natural mineral but due to the construction sector boom, several manufacturers globally have begun to create different forms of artificial gypsum products to meet rising demand.

Artificial or synthetic gypsum products are mostly made from sulphur dioxide gases from coal-fired power plants, from the production of phosphate fertilisers or from the production of hydrofluoric acid.

Kebs said the key testing parameters for various types of gypsum boards include flexural strength, nail-pull resistance, dimensions, water resistance and finish. Gypsum binders and plaster on the other hand, are checked for fire resistance, sound proof qualities and calcium sulphate content.

“Imports of these products are subjected to the same inspection and testing requirements,” Kimanthi said.

There has also been concerna that low levels of the heavy metals present in coal might appear in synthetic gypsum.

“We should use natural gypsum building materials from natural gypsum which is safe for our health,” Erdemann Gypsum managing director John Yang said at the company’s factory.

“The government should inspect imported gypsum products to ensure they do not have chemical contaminants.”

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