A CBS News Investigation aired on “60 Minutes” has revealed that Chinese-made laminate wood flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators contains levels of formaldehyde that may be up to 20 times higher than safe emission standards.
What’s the Problem?
In July 2014, a Class Action Lawsuit was filed on behalf of the non-profit group Global Community Monitor – the same organization featured in a “60 Minutes” segment reporting on Chinese-made laminate wood flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators. According to the complaint, the following products were found to contain levels of formaldehyde that exceeded safety standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB):
- 8 mm Bristol County Cherry Laminate Flooring
- 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana French Oak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Antique Bamboo Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Oceanside Plank Bamboo Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Warm Springs Chestnut Laminate Flooring
- 15 mm Dream Home St. James Sky Lakes Pine Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Chimney Tops Smoked Oak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Imperial Teak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Vintner’s Reserve Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Cape Doctor Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Cumberland Mountain Oak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Americas Mission Olive Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Glacier Peak Poplar Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Golden Teak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Hand-scraped Imperial Teak Laminate Flooring (SKU 10029601)
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Handscraped Summer Retreat Teak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Sandy Hills Hickory Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Tanzanian Wenge Laminate Flooring
- 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana Royal Mahogany Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Blacksburg Barn Board Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Brazilian Koa Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Golden Acacia Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Poplar Forest Oak Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Fumed African Ironwood Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James African Mahogany Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Chimney Rock Charcoal Laminate Flooring
- 12 mm Dream Home St. James Nantucket Beech Laminate Flooring
* Please Note: This is not a comprehensive list, as other Lumber Liquidators products may contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical used to manufacture building materials like pressed wood products, fiber board and plywood. The effects of formaldehyde exposure in humans include:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Chest pain
- Corrosion of the gastrointestinal tract and inflammation of the mouth, esophagus and stomach (when ingested)
Additionally, occupational studies have identified links between formaldehyde exposure and increased incidences of lung and nasopharyngeal cancer.
Nevada Class Actions
In March 2015, A a class action lawsuit was filed against Lumber Liquidators on behalf of a Las Vegas family who fell ill after installing the company’s laminate wood flooring in their home. Tests revealed the floors contained illegal levels of formaldehyde. “As a consumer you try and go out and purchase stuff for your home to make it beautiful, and you find out in the long run, that it could possibly be bad for you,” said Noah Bennett, who filed the lawsuit.
Later the same month, a separate class action was filed against Lumber Liquidators in Nevada citing similar allegations to Bennett’s. Rosie Oakes, her husband and dog allegedly suffered severe respiratory illnesses after installing nearly 700 feet of Lumber Liquidators flooring in their condo. The complaint asks the company to test and — if necessary — remove the contaminated flooring.
Also in March, a Fairfax County, VA man filed a class action lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators seeking compensation for the cost and installation of the flooring, court and attorneys’ fees, loss in home value, as well as all profits and other money the company earned from their “deceptive, misleading and unlawful conduct.” The complaint specifically mentions the “60 Minutes”exposé and report published in Seeking Alpha.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Lumber Liquidators in Manhattan Federal Court accusing the company of failing to warn about illegal levels of formaldehyde contained in the company’s laminate flooring, and for falsely labeling the products as CARB compliant. The suit was filed the same week CPSC announced that it was investigating Lumber Liquidators over these issues.
A class action lawsuit was filed April 17 in California Central District Court alleging that Lumber Liquidators employed laboratories that did not have proper credentials to test their Chinese floors for formaldehyde content. The complaint alleges that Pure Air Control Services, the parent company of the labs named in the class action, is not accredited to test for the substance.
Lumber Liquidators Faces Injunction Over Formaldehyde Test Kits
Plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators have requested an injunction that would bar the company from sending customers ‘unreliable’ do-it-yourself formaldehyde testing kits they say provide inaccurate results, according to Law 360. “The results of this campaign will potentially be catastrophic,” the plaintiffs said. “Lumber Liquidators’ public relations inspired ‘air tests’ will falsely lead some to believe that their floors are safe, and to forgo effective measures to reduce the health risks the floors pose.”
Test Results Questioned
May 7 – Lumber Liquidators announced today that it had distributed over 26,000 air quality test kits to customers, and that most of those returned fall within health guidelines. The company says 15,000 customers received air quality test kits, and of 3,400 kits analyzed to date, over 97% had formaldehyde levels “within the guidelines set by the World Health Organization,” according to CBS News.
However, many have questioned the reliability of the test results. While air quality kits can measure overall formaldehyde levels in the air, they cannot pinpoint its source. No federal standards yet exist for formaldehyde in wood products, although according to the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is close to issuing a final rule.
Securities Class Action
After the “60 Minutes” exposé aired on March 1, 2015, Lumber Liquidators stock fell 40%. However, even before the segment aired, the company’s stocks had been affected by reports of formaldehyde contained in its flooring products. In Nov. 2013, Lumber Liquidators’ stock price fell after a report published in Seeking Alpha found that the company’s Chinese-made laminate floors contained levels of formaldehyde that far exceeded California emission limits.
“The tested product, Mayflower 5/16” x 5” Bund Birch Engineered, emits a staggering three and half times over the government mandated maximum emission level. The product is clearly not CARB [California Air Resources Board] compliant yet Lumber Liquidators tagged CARB compliance on the box.”
On Nov. 23, 2013, a securities class action lawsuit (Kiken v. Lumber Liquidators Holdings, Inc., et al.) was filed against Lumber Liquidators. Within 2 weeks, the company’s stock fell 25% to under $90 a share.
Lawsuit Filed Over ‘Unreliable’ Formaldehyde Test Kits
March 31, 2015 – A class action lawsuit was filed today in California federal court alleging that Lumber Liquidators provided “inherently unreliable” test kits to consumers seeking to find out whether their laminate flooring contains dangerous levels of formaldehyde. The suit claims the kits “do not use testing methods that are commonly accepted and that CARB recommends,” and that they were designed to under-report the formaldehyde content of the floors.