Under investigation by the Department of Justice over formaldehyde levels in flooring made in China, Lumber Liquidators says it will stop selling laminate flooring made in China.
Customers wonder whether their homes are safe, CBS News reports. In March, a report on the news magazine 60 Minutes revealed that some of Lumber Liquidators Chinese-made flooring had levels of formaldehyde higher than legally allowed. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
Lumber Liquidators said it distributed more than 26,000 air quality test kits to customers and the vast majority of those returned fall within health guidelines. 60 Minutes sent undercover investigators to three Chinese factories that produce laminate flooring for Lumber Liquidators. Cartons of floorboards had labels indicating the product met strict California standards, but in tests commissioned by 60 Minutes on flooring bought in the U.S., 30 of 31 cartons of the flooring emitted as much as 13 times the amount of formaldehyde allowed. Lumber Liquidators founder Tom Sullivan told journalist Anderson Cooper the flooring was compliant. Sullivan said his company was not going to “sell something unsafe.”
The company now says 15,000 customers received air quality test kits and of 3,400 kits that have been analyzed, “over 97 percent” had formaldehyde levels “within the guidelines set by the World Health Organization,” according to CBS News. But a California attorney involved in the lawsuit filed Thursday, called test results “false and deceptive.” He said his clients have been deceived into believing the Lumber Liquidators flooring is safe. Tom Neltner of the National Center for Healthy Housing said, “[C]onsumers shouldn’t have to ask questions about the safety of the products. They should be buying based on how the wood looks and how [much] the wood costs.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, when formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 parts per million, individuals may experience adverse effects including watery eyes; a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Laboratory studies in 1980 showed that formaldehyde exposure could cause nasal cancer in rats. In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. The cancer institute says that formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, a program of the Department of Health and Human Services, listed formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens. Research on workers exposed to formaldehyde reveals a potential tie between formaldehyde exposures and cancers such as leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.
CBS News reports that Lumber Liquidators hired a company run by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to look at its sourcing and compliance practices. In a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it faces an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice.