Amid concerns about the levels of toxic formaldehyde in certain laminate flooring, Lumber Liquidators has announced that it will halt sales for the Chinese-made products.
In a press release issued on May 7, it was announced that the Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring will be recalled from stores after two two months of criticism and a criminal investigation over the sale of the products.
Lumber Liquidators indicates that initial indoor air quality testing suggests that more than 97% of customers’ homes were within guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) for formaldehyde levels.
Concerns over formaldehyde problems with Lumber Liquidators flooring surfaced after a “60 Minutes” segment last month, which found that products imported from China and sold in California failed to meet the state’s formaldehyde emissions standards.
Some experts suggest that tens of thousands of homes in the state, and potentially hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses nationwide, may be contaminated with toxic Chinese flooring.
Last week, the retailer announced that the Justice Department is likely to file criminal charges for violations of the Lacy Act, which forbids the import of illegally logged wood.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is also investigating the company. If the CPSC finds that the flooring is unsafe, it could result in a Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring recall.
The company said it has its own special committee investigating the formaldehyde flooring claims. According to the committee’s review, the Chinese flooring suppliers certified the flooring sold to the company and labeled it as compliant with California formaldehyde emission standards.
Lumber Liquidators officials say that the company is now reviewing those certifications, labeling processes and practices of the flooring suppliers. It is also reviewing the allegations and its own policies.
“Despite the initial positive air quality testing results we have received, we believe it is the right decision to suspend the sales of these products,” Lumber Liquidators President and CEO Robert M. Lynch said in the press release. “We will work diligently to meet the needs of our customers and to ensure their satisfaction.”
According to the company’s press release, it began offering the free indoor air quality screening to customers who received the flooring in early March. The testing, conducted by Building Health Check, LLC, with air samples tested by EDLab at Pure Air Control Services, Inc., is looking at more than 11,000 testing kits returned from March through May 1. So far, the company has tested 3,400 kits from 2,600 households and found that more than 97% indicated that air concentrations of formaldehyde were within the WHO guidelines.
Those customers whose tests showed levels of formaldehyde exceeding the guidelines have been notified by the company, according to the press release.
“We developed this testing program to address questions raised by customers about the air quality in their homes,” Lynch said. “Although these tests do not identify the specific source of any formaldehyde emissions, we believe this testing provides valuable information for our customers.”
Last week, similar testing revealed that at least one type of Chinese laminate flooring sold by Lowe’s and imported by Tecsun, also contained high levels of formaldehyde. However. the company almost immediately halted sales of the flooring and says it will do its own testing.
Lumber Liquidators Flooring Lawsuits
Currently, at least 10 class action lawsuits have been filed against Lumber Liquidators over problems with its Chinese-imported flooring in seven different federal districts. However, the number of class action and individual complaints is expected to grow in the coming months.
In March, a group of plaintiffs petitioned the JPML to establish a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all lawsuits over Lumber Liquidator laminate flooring problems, which would centralize the cases before one judge to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Oral arguments over whether to consolidate and centralize all federal Lumber Liquidators class action lawsuits will be heard by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on May 28, at a hearing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Formaldehyde is a chemical used to manufacture building materials, resins, household products and is used as an embalming agent. It is classified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA and was determined by the National Academy of Sciences to cause cancer in humans. However, the EPA has never passed regulations which set acceptable formaldehyde gas levels for flooring.
Common symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde may include respiratory symptoms, eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, chest pain, vomiting and rashes. The chemical has been linked to some forms of cancer and leukemia.