Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

by / Tuesday, 03 March 2015 / Published in Environmental Testing
Low Prices often equal Low Quality - You get what you pay for?

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

A recent investigative journalist story exposed Lumber Liquidators formaldehyde testing and revealed a rather unfortunate tale that may affect hundreds of thousands of homes across the US. During active Federal investigations for suspicion of using illegally harvested lumber from Russia, it turns out one of the largest flooring distributors in the US may have also snuck high-formaldehyde content composite wood products into California. Whether they did this knowingly to save on production costs is heretofore unknown, but this recent 60 Minutes news story – a double whammy – has sent Lumber Liquidators stock plummeting.

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

Lumber Liquidators Stock Plummets on News of High Formaldehyde Tests

 Perhaps this is a more accurate representation of where the company should be valued, if they’ve been cheating the system by buying illegal wood and mislabeling their products “CARB II compliant” so they can sell in California?

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

Low Prices often equal Low Quality – You get what you pay for?

California Formaldehyde Emission Levels

Environmental regulations often start in Europe, then show up in California, and ultimately are adopted across the US. That is exactly what has happened with allowable formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. Composite wood includes plywood, OSB, MDF, and much of the lower-cost “hardwood” flooring options in the US are subject to more stringent formaldehyde emission regulations when sold in CA. But it’s looking like even Californians weren’t safe from the Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring made in China.

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) – who sets the most stringent formaldehyde emission standards in the US – has based their allowable emissions on clear health data indicating formaldehyde can be a real problem for human health. Too many projects build with crummy materials full of toxins, then lock occupants up in air-tight buildings without adequate mechanical ventilation, and then we’re surprised when American’s have higher rates of asthma and other respiratory irritations?

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

EPA Health Data from Inhalation of Formaldehyde

The 60 minutes expose shows formaldehyde test results from products purchased around the country. The Lumber Liquidators formaldehyde testing was performed by 3rd party laboratories. Red arrows show allowable CARB limits. Note that most of the Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring tested above the CA allowable limit (lower red line). Also note how many samples were over 1000 times higher than what should be allowed into CA.

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

Lumber Liquidators Actual Emissions 1000x Over California Limits

CARB is fighting the good fight, and soon the US will have similarly strict limits for formaldehyde emissions. But if Lumber Liquidators can get away with this… it makes me wonder if enough oversight and enforcement is in place to truly protect our population from unnecessary indoor air pollution such as formaldehyde. I guess this alarming news is more job security for us at Healthy Building Science.

Lumber Liquidators Chinese Laminate Mislabeled?

This part of the story was most troubling to me. Apparently the Chinese manufacturers of Lumber Liquidators product were knowingly saving the client money AND applying “CARB Compliant” labeling on these products. This will inevitably become a case of who-knew-what-when.

Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing

Lumber Liquidators CARB Compliant Sticker – Fails 3rd Party Formaldehyde Testing

How to find out if my flooring has high formaldehyde content?

There are basically two types of environmental testing services relevant to this story:

  • Chamber Testing of Bulk Materials. There are many testing methods available for chamber tests, but CA has their own standard methods by which manufacturer’s must comply before they can apply the stamp “CARB-Compliant.” Most of these tests range from $700-2500 per sample. Soon we’ll post another blog illustrating interesting results from recent tests we ran on building materials. It is neat to see what VOCs, including formaldehyde, are emitted from raw solid wood and even unfinished drywall.
  • Ambient Air Quality Testing. Here, too, there are many different options and standards for testing. It takes a good environmental inspector or industrial hygienist to know what test is most appropriate. It also takes an expert to interpret these results and put them in the context of each particular case.

Class Action on the Way!

So the class action law suit is on the way.  In the meantime we’re doing various formaldehyde chamber tests for VOCs and formaldehyde on bulk materials, and we continue to offer ambient air testing for homes, offices, medical and institutional buildings. Whether you’ve got Lumber Liquidator product in your building or not, let us know if you’d like your air or building materials tested for formaldehyde. If you suspect your building has contaminated flooring it is prudent to do your own testing and possibly time to join a class action suit.

10 Responses to “Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Testing”

  1. […] Unless you’ve lived under a rock, this sort of case should sound familiar. Think post-Katrina FEMA cottages.  Think Chinese drywall. Or Chinese flooring with formaldehyde. […]

  2. […] news broke that Lumber Liquidators may have distributed composite wood flooring in California that did not meet California Air […]

  3. Sick Building Syndrome and Building Related Illness – Tri-State Air Solutions says :

    Unless you’ve lived under a rock, this sort of case should sound familiar. Think post-Katrina FEMA cottages.  Think Chinese drywall. Or Chinese flooring with formaldehyde.

  4. Carlos Flores says :

    Hello Savoy,

    I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing an increase in asthma symptoms in your new apartment. Healthy Building Science would be happy to discuss how we can help with identifying if your flooring is responsible for the poor indoor air quality and high levels of formaldehyde. Please give us a call at 415-785-7986, we’d be happy to help.

    Thanks,

    Carlos

  5. Savoy Bly says :

    I live in in an apt in Richmond,Va. I have asthma but my symptoms have greatly exacerbated since I moved in this apt. There is wood paneling for flooring except the kitchen. I really believe these are the formadehyde tiles from Lumber Liquidator. How can I find out or get the air and myself tested?

  6. Philip Pecevich says :

    Hello,

    A Formaldehyde monitor is may be used by CARB to do their school and home testing. The monitor is inexpensive easy to use and very importantly has the ability to measure very low levels of Formaldehyde that all other tests fail. Formaldehyde should not measure above 5ppb (parts per billion).Only our meter can deliver this.

    Call CARB for info or Air Quality Research

  7. Alex Stadtner says :

    Hello Casey,

    Please call the office (415-785-7986) and talk to Carlos. He’ll explain your testing options and you can decide if it makes sense or not.

    It involves carefully sealing and wrapping a precise-sized sample to the lab for a chamber test. If you live in CA you may automatically be eligible for the class action. You may not want to spend the money on chamber testing unless you absolutely have to. Ask the attorney what to do.

    Give a ring if you want to discuss further.

    Best,
    Alex

  8. Alex Stadtner says :

    Hello Kerry,

    Thank you for your service.

    Sorry you’re suffering symptoms in your place. It may or may not be from formaldehyde. And if it is from formaldehyde, it may or may not be from the flooring. To test the ambient air (what you may be reacting to) is not terribly expensive, but to test the flooring product for formaldehyde requires chamber testing and will be quite expensive.

    Perhaps the wood flooring supplier or regional distributor would be willing to help with lab costs. Everyone knows there is a class action law suite coming down the pipeline, and you may be able to ride the coat tails of a team with attorneys and budget for testing. Not sure who that is right now… but you may find more online.

    Sorry I don’t have better news. It’s expensive to do the testing properly and there’s no way around the high cost.

    It’s worth noting that unless you’re in California there may not have been any rules broken. In the US we have pretty lax emissions standards compared to the EU, so… it’s a larger scale problem and it’s possible you’ll have no recourse. But I’m no attorney!

    Best of luck,
    Alex

  9. Casey supak says :

    We had kennsington homes laminate flooring installed Dec 2014 and I am now pregnant and we are concerned about the air. We saw our flooring listed in the law suit in CA. How do I get our air tested?

  10. Kerry Smythe says :

    What about those of us who are retired over 63 and cannot afford such a test? My upstairs apartment was recently re-floored with new synthetic wood. I have lived in this apartment for five (5) months and just last month, February 2015, I began having symptomatic problems with both nasal congestion, and lungs. I went to “urgent” care in VA (as I am a veteran who served during active conflict), and VA took x-rays, and could not see any issues of pneumonia. However, I am scheduled to go back to see my health care provider at VA on the 23 March, 2015, general check up. I still have shortness of breath, and coughing. It is not TB either (VA did x-rays, and blood tests). What company would be most suspect to check for these types of products? I have access to the original container of the wood flooring and can see from that who sold the wood flooring. However, that does not necessarily prove that company manufactured the wood flooring. Sincerely, Kerry Smythe. Prior Service Warrant Officer/Pilot

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