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Say it isn't so...

Say it isn’t so…

There was recently a 60 minutes segment on laminate flooring and Lumber Liquidators. It was alleged the flooring could  possibly be extremely harmful to people, especially children as it contains formaldehyde. Could this turn into another ‘Chinese drywall’  issue?  Quite frankly, yes, it certainly could  be a huge issue at some point in the future.  So how does Formaldehyde even get into a plastic laminate floor…..isn’t that the stuff the frogs I dissected in High School were marinated in?

It is legal for flooring to contain formaldehyde. The chemical is present in some of the cheap glues used in factories  in China.

Formaldehyde is in the glues used to bind wood particles together to make the core boards in laminate flooring. The laminated top, which covers the core board, keeps most of the formaldehyde emissions trapped inside. But formaldehyde does leak into the air.

How much is inhaled by homeowners depends on how much formaldehyde is in the glue and how much ventilation is in the home.  Homes today are built to be pretty air tight.  People run the AC instead of opening windows.

Because formaldehyde can cause myeloid leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer at high levels and respiratory issues as well as eye, nose and throat irritation at even low levels, California has strict standards for how much of the chemical the core boards in laminate flooring can emit– CARB Phase 2 standards  – CARB is an acronym for the California Air Resources Board, which sets strict standards for formaldehyde emissions in wood flooring. Congress adopted California’s limits when it passed the Formaldehyde Standards Act in 2010. That law is scheduled to take effect nationwide this year. So there are laws that govern the emissions.  But these laws may not be effective.

Bottom line is plastic laminate floors are decent looking, easy to install and inexpensive…..but are they safe.

So what are the builders and manufacturers of plastic laminate flooring saying–

Phones have been ringing off the hook at flooring companies nationwide in the wake of allegations that Chinese laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators contains excessive levels of formaldehyde.

No surprise that some of the nation’s largest home builders have also been quick to check and recheck their product lines and assure customers they are safe. While about half of all laminate flooring comes from China, according to industry sources, it is not widely used by major builders. Still, they do use some. We contacted some of the biggest and asked if customers should be concerned:

New home sales construction

D.R. Horton (the nation’s largest publicly traded home builder): “D.R. Horton does not buy anything directly from Lumber Liquidators, and laminate flooring is only installed in a small percentage of our homes. All of the manufacturers we purchase laminate flooring from have provided us responses outlining why the Lumber Liquidators issue is not expected to be a problem for D.R. Horton and they have all confirmed to us that they are CARB compliant. (CARB refers to California air regulations, which are the strictest.)

Pulte: “PulteGroup does not work with Lumber Liquidators, as the company purchases its flooring products through contracts with three of the largest flooring manufacturers in the United States. We have asked for and received confirmation from each of these suppliers that their laminate flooring products have been tested and are CARB compliant.”

Lennar: “We buy our flooring from Mohawk and Shaw [a Berkshire Hathaway company]. They do import laminate flooring from China but have given us written assurance that it meets the formaldehyde requirements. They are compliant with the law. They are independently checked in accordance with CARB. Our suppliers assure us that their suppliers meet the formaldehyde requirements.”

Since the bulk of the builders source their wood from large material providers, we contacted some of the largest of those:

Mohawk: “All engineered hardwood and laminate flooring produced and sold by Mohawk Industries meet CARB Phase 2 standards for formaldehyde emissions.

The company uses CARB-approved third-party inspectors to check regularly to ensure all products remain compliant with CARB Phase 2 requirements.”

Armstrong: “Armstrong sources laminate flooring made to our specifications. Our product specifications require adherence to all environmental, health and safety requirements, including formaldehyde emissions, of the U.S. federal government and, where applicable, state regulations such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB II). Our suppliers have their products tested at independent certified labs and then provide the test results to us on a regular basis. We only accept products that are certified to meet CARB requirements. In addition, on an annual basis, we randomly test our products at the Hardwood Products Veneer Association (HPVA) lab in Virginia for OSHA requirements.”

Armstrong admitted their phones have been ringing off the hook since the news broke on Lumber Liquidators, but since they put out that information, they say they’ve seen a positive reaction. It seems one company’s nightmare could be another’s bonus.

Analysts say the laminate flooring scare could be a boon for other, more pricey flooring options, like tile and hardwoods. Credit Suisse did a survey of homeowners in the wake of the March 1 CBS News report and asked what other type of flooring, instead of laminates, would they consider buying, to gauge what other flooring types could possibly pick up market share amid the fallout.

“Hardwood and ceramic tile were the big winners, with each garnering 50 percent or more of respondents’ interest. Resilient (vinyl or LVT), stone, and carpet and rugs were small winners, with each type of flooring garnering between 20 percent and 40 percent of respondents’ interest,” according to the survey.