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Fumes from Laminate Flooring from Lumber Liquidators Pose Health Concern

Our product liability lawyers warn about dangerous fumes from laminated flooring.

A Kentucky family is joining thousands of American families who are testing their homes for toxic fumes from Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators, CBS News reports.

John Mutters of Lexington installed laminate floors from Lumber Liquidators in his home two years ago and wants to find out whether the air inside contains too much formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Mutters ordered air-quality test kits from the company after a shocking “60 Minutes” investigation in March revealed that some Lumber Liquidators flooring from China emitted as much as 13 times the acceptable limits for formaldehyde.

The company just announced that is suspending sales of the product until an evaluation of its sourcing compliance program is completed by a firm run by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Analysts for “60 Minutes” tested 31 boxes of Chinese-made laminate flooring sold in the U.S. and found that 30 of them violated California emissions standards. There is currently no national standard, but Congress had adopted the California model and those rules should go into effect later this year.

“60 Minutes” also tested samples of the company’s laminate flooring made in the U.S. and found that while those products fell within acceptable limits, every box from China failed.

In addition, undercover reporters visited wood mills in China and found workers who admitted they labeled wood planks as compliant with California standards even though they knew the products were not.

Despite the disturbing findings, the company has maintained that its products are safe for consumers.

However, it has also shipped thousands of air-quality test kits to concerned customers. According to company founder Tom Sullivan, 97 percent of the results returned so far have shown formaldehyde levels that fall within World Health Organization guidelines.

It’s estimated that Lumber Liquidators flooring has been used in hundreds of thousands of U.S. homes.

How Dangerous is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is associated with a wide variety of health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory problems, including coughing and wheezing
  • Skin irritation (rashes, itchiness, flaky skin)
  • Neurological problems, such as headaches, mood changes, attention problems, nausea, balance problems

What Do I Do If I Have Laminate Flooring?

Laminate wood flooring will likely have some formaldehyde. Despite the fact that there is no national standard regulating the amount of allowable formaldehyde in these wood products, the Environmental Protection Agency notes on its website that acceptable levels, including those set by California and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), are 80 to 90 percent lower than what was allowable in the 1980s.   

In addition, the amount of formaldehyde emitted from a product decreases over time, the EPA says.

If you are considering installing laminate floors in your home, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you purchase pressed wood products (such as particle board, MDF or hardwood plywood) that are labeled or stamped in compliance with California standards (CARB ACTM) or ANSI criteria.

If you already have laminate floors, the CPSC says there are options to test your indoor air. You could hire an air quality professional or purchase consumer test kits. However, the agency also notes that there is no licensing or certification process for indoor air quality professionals and the efficacy of home tests is unknown, so proceed with caution.

In the meantime, you can minimize risks by making sure your home is well ventilated and seal the surface of formaldehyde-emitting products that are not already coated. The CPSC strongly warns against using ammonia to temporarily reduce formaldehyde levels because the amount needed must be handled with extreme care to avoid accidents such as fires and explosions.

For more information, see the CPSC booklet on formaldehyde here.

Am I Sick?

Lumber Liquidators is currently facing more than 100 class action lawsuits and is being investigated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Justice Department. If you suspect you or a loved one has fallen ill due to the company’s laminate flooring, you should contact an attorney immediately for a consultation.

The Frank Jenkins Law Office is experienced in handling dangerous and defective product claims. For a free consultation, contact us today.