Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Test Kits Questioned by EPA

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The testing kits Lumber Liquidators has been sending customers to measure formaldehyde levels in their homes “may not provide useful information due to uncertainties” of the method, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What’s the Problem?

June 8, 2015 – Amid allegations that its Chinese laminate flooring had toxic levels of formaldehyde, Lumber Liquidators sent thousands of test kits to consumers who’d purchased the products. The kits contained a device used to measure the air for 24 hours, which were then sent back to be analyzed.

While the EPA didn’t take a specific position on the testing program, the agency said that air tests don’t pinpoint the source of contaminant, and there are no widely accepted standards for indoor formaldehyde levels.

“Lumber Liquidators agrees with the EPA in that home testing cannot identify the source of formaldehyde in consumers’ homes,” the company said in response. “We also believe, however, that indoor air testing can provide guidance on the presence or absence of elevated levels of formaldehyde in the home –- which helps determine whether further testing is warranted.”

The EPA also criticized statements Lumber Liquidators’ made in a letter it sent to customers who had done the formaldehyde tests. The company noted a “recent study” from the EPA to reassure customers; however, the research was an outside study referenced in a document which does not represent an EPA conclusion, the agency said. The EPA doesn’t have formal standards for formaldehyde emissions, but rules proposed in 2013 may be finalized this year, according to Bloomberg News.

Aftermath of ‘60 Minutes’ Exposé

Lumber Liquidators has been reeling since a CBS News investigation aired on ‘60 Minutes’ revealed that the company’s Chinese-sourced laminate wood flooring contained illegal levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Since the March 1 report, sales have dropped, dozens of lawsuits have been filed and the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation. Chief Executive Officer Robert Lynch also resigned ‘unexpectedly’ last month. Lumber Liquidators shares have plunged more than 50% in the aftermath.

Test Results

As of May 1, Lumber Liquidators said that 3,400 test kits had been analyzed, 97% of which revealed levels of formaldehyde that were within guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency specifies that indoor formaldehyde emissions levels must lower than about 0.08 parts per million. In a letter to customers, Lumber Liquidators said formaldehyde levels in tested homes were within or below the “normal” range of 0.02 to 0.10 ppm, which allows for a higher level of formaldehyde than WHO permits.

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