Lawsuits are now being reviewed for workers who were injured after installing or handling laminate wood flooring products sold by Lumber Liquidators. A CBS News investigation featured on 60 Minutes has revealed that these types of floors contain toxic levels of formaldehyde, a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).
“60 Minutes” Report Finds Toxic Levels of Formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators Flooring
According to the “60 Minutes” report, Lumber Liquidators is the largest retailer of hardwood flooring in the U.S. However, much of the company’s cheaper laminate flooring is made in China and may not meet U.S. health and safety standards because it contains high levels of formaldehyde.
CBS News investigators purchased more than 150 boxes of laminate flooring from a number of different Lumber Liquidators stores and had them subjected to a series of tests. While the company’s American-made laminate flooring was found to have levels of formaldehyde within California emissions limits, the Chinese-made variety had as much as 7 times the state standard for acceptable formaldehyde levels. Some samples even contained as much as 20 times the level of formaldehyde allowable under California law.
Dangers of Formaldehyde
While it is legal for laminate floors to contain small amounts of formaldehyde, the percentage is regulated by state health authorities. Formaldehyde is commonly used in the glues that binds laminate flooring wood particles together. The laminate covering traps most of the formaldehyde inside, but some of the chemical does escape into the air. The level homeowners and installers are exposed to depends on how much of the substance is in the glue and how well-ventilated the homes and work areas are.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even relatively low exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and lead to significant respiratory problems. In order to protect the safety of its residents and workers who install laminate floors, California has implemented strict standards on how much formaldehyde the products can emit. These standards were enacted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). In 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards Act, which will make California’s standards effective nationwide by late 2015.
How Installers Can Minimize Formaldehyde Exposure
According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, the following steps can be taken to minimize exposure to formaldehyde during and after the installation process:
- Proper ventilation, such as opening windows, bringing fresh air in, and running exhaust fans during installation can help to expedite formaldehyde off-gassing.
- Keeping indoor temperatures and humidity low during the laminate floor installation process, such as by using an air conditioner and/or dehumidifier to draw moisture out of the air, may
- help decrease formaldehyde that off-gasses indoors.
- If time permits, installers may wish to leave the flooring in an unoccupied space such as a garage or under a covered carport for a period of time to let it off-gas before installing it.
- Flooring products that are covered with impermeable facing such as synthetic laminates may further reduce formaldehyde emissions.