These Toxic Floors Could Be Sabotaging Your Health
Lumber Liquidators, one of the largest flooring retailers in the U.S., appears to be selling laminate that contains unacceptable levels of formaldehyde. The levels are so high, pediatricians worry that children who breathe in air contaminated by formaldehyde emissions could develop asthma or other respiratory ailments.
Global Community Monitor, a non-profit organization that helps citizens monitor air pollution in the U.S. and around the world, has launched a petition on Care2 to get Lumber Liquidators to stop selling unsafe laminate, recall what it has already sold, and replace the toxic laminate with a safe and healthy alternative. You can get the full details of the petition here.
What is Formaldehyde and Why Should You Care?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, formaldehyde is a colorless, reactive, strong-smelling gas at room temperature. A volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde is an industrial chemical that is used in home furnishings, household cleaners, pesticides, paints and flooring, like the laminate being sold by Lumber Liquidators.
The CDC says formaldehyde is dangerous because exposure to it can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, coughing, wheezing, and allergic reactions. “Long-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been associated with cancer in people and lab animals,” says the CDC here.
Why is Formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators Laminate a Problem?
Global Community Monitor had a large sample of the laminates Lumber Liquidators produces in China tested for formaldehyde emissions. Amazingly, the results showed that some laminated flooring contains almost 20 times more than what is legally allowed to be sold. “The test labs thought the machine (used to test for formaldehyde) was broken,” Denny Larson, the group’s CEO, told 60 Minutes when they investigated the story.
In that 60 Minutes report, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who specializes in environmental pollution at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, told reporter Anderson Cooper, “It’s not a safe level. It’s at a level that the U.S. EPA calls polluted indoor conditions.”
Asked “Would you want that in your home?” Dr. Landrigan answered an emphatic “No!”
Lumber Liquidators has challenged the recent negative press, saying the tests used to gauge the formaldehyde levels are unfair. The tests (designed by the California Air Resources Board, or CARB) rip apart the laminate in the flooring, which helps seal-in the formaldehyde, according to Liquid Lumbers.
That may help a little, but the formaldehyde still poses a risk, says environmental attorney Richard Drury to NPR. “This piece of plastic that’s on top of the board is not an emissions control device, it’s a piece of plastic.”
Dr. Landrigan explained that it might not produce symptoms in everybody, but children are the most vulnerable and likely to show symptoms.
“It would be risky because it increases the risk of chronic respiratory irritations, change in a person’s lung function, and increased risk of asthma.”
Global Community Monitor is directing its petition at Tom Sullivan, CEO and Founder of Lumber Liquidators. It is asking Sullivan to “take action today to stop selling any unsafe Chinese laminate.” It also urges the company to “pay to remove and replace the flooring for those who unsuspectingly bought their products containing this toxic chemical.”
You can get more information and sign the petition here.
If there’s a pollution issue you’d like to draw attention to, launch your own petition here.