Dangerous levels of chemical found in popular laminate flooring

Lumber Liquidators, a well-known, national hardwood flooring retailer, has come under scrutiny in California after an investigation revealed a health issue with one of the…

Laminate flooring is popular, but can carry a serious health risk if it contains too much of certain chemicals. (Shutterstock)

Lumber Liquidators, a well-known, national hardwood flooring retailer, has come under scrutiny in California after an investigation revealed a health issue with one of the company’s products. According to the report from “60 Minutes,” one of Lumber Liquidator’s laminate floor products from China contained more than the legal amount of formaldehyde.

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Formaldehyde is found in the glues used to hold laminate floors together, and a small amount of the natural preservative is common in carpentry products as well as press fabrics, bath oils, bubble bath, and an array of cosmetics, deodorants, fingernail polishes and shampoos. Lumber Liquidators’ website is upfront about the existence of formaldehyde in its products, stating:

“Lumber Liquidators offers many types of flooring. Like other flooring retailers, some of these options may utilize glues containing formaldehyde which can also be found in other fabricated household items…” The company goes on to add, “Our commitment to the health and safety of our customers includes meeting or exceeding industry standards on formaldehyde emissions through compliance with applicable regulations such as those established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).”

CARB is California’s way of ensuring wood products in the state do not contain high levels of formaldehyde.

When it came right down to testing, however, Lumber Liquidators fell short of their online promise to consumers. In the “60 Minutes” special, an undercover team went directly to the Chinese plants where the laminate flooring was produced and revealed the amount of formaldehyde in the product was above California regulations.

High levels could mean it acts as a carcinogen

Though considered a preservative found naturally in all organic life forms, extensive exposure to abnormally high levels of this substance have gained it the label of a known carcinogen. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) indicates formaldehyde in the air, even at low levels, can cause adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Higher levels have been linked to an increased risk for leukemia and lung cancer.

Unfortunately, many homes already have abnormally high levels of formaldehyde even before laminate flooring is put in.

Woods flooring can look natural

Laminate floors are considered one of the primary contributors to levels of formaldehyde in a home. (Shutterstock)

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“During the 1970s, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was used in many homes,” states NCI.”However, few homes are now insulated with UFFI. Homes in which UFFI was installed many years ago are not likely to have high formaldehyde levels now. Pressed-wood products containing formaldehyde resins are often a significant source of formaldehyde in homes. Other potential indoor sources of formaldehyde include cigarette smoke and the use of unvented fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters.”

Formaldehyde in laminate flooring

At this time is is unclear what form of reprimand will take place for Lumber Liquidators, but reports indicate the company’s stock value has dropped significantly since the news was released. Individuals concerned about the amount of formaldehyde in their homes from laminate flooring can have an air quality test performed to see where levels are currently at. The NCI recommends people use “exterior-grade” wood products in their homes to avoid formaldehyde exposure, but all homes should have adequate ventilation, moderate temperatures, and reduced humidity levels through the use of air conditioners and dehumidifiers to reduce formaldehyde risk.