60 Minutes aired an episode on its investigation into Lumber Liquidators earlier this month. The show claims that it found toxic amounts of formaldehyde that did not meet health and safety standards.
Lumber Liquidators is the largest retailer of hardwood and laminate flooring in North America. Every year more than 100 million square feet of its flooring are installed into American homes. 60 Minutes alleges that the flooring, which is made in China, may contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is now investigating the company.
Here is what you need to know:
Formaldehyde and Testing
Formaldehyde, usually found in the glue used to make laminate flooring, is known to cause lung and nasopharyngeal cancer. Acute formaldehyde exposure through inhalation can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, chest pains and bronchitis. Ingestion of formaldehyde can corrode the gastrointestinal tract and cause inflammation and ulcers.
Robert Drury, featured on the 60 Minutes episode, filed a class action lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators for the high levels of formaldehyde in its flooring. Drury sent Lumber Liquidators' Chinese-made laminate flooring to three certified testing labs. The labs found that the average level of formaldehyde in the products exceeded California's formaldehyde emission standards by 600-700 percent. Dr. Philip Landrigan told 60 Minutes that the level of formaldehyde found would be considered polluted indoor conditions by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Lumber Liquidators disputes these findings. It contends that the method of testing used breaks the laminate flooring apart and releases more formaldehyde. This results in higher levels of the chemical detected. Lumber Liquidators claims that a better method is to test the product as it is used in the home. The company argues that the layer of laminate on top of the flooring actually seals in some of the formaldehyde. So, less of the chemical is actually released into the home.
The California Air Resources board uses the first method of testing. CPSC's tests use the second method.
It may be months before we find out the results of CPSC's testing. If the agency believes that there is a substantial health hazard, it may recall the products in the future.
Insisting that the products are safe, Lumber Liquidators has promised to pay for safety testing for customers who request it. California officials believe that proper ventilation is enough to mitigate the risks of formaldehyde exposure. They do not recommend removing flooring unless you experience noticeable symptoms.