Related to sales of flooring with unsafe CH2O levels, national chain fined $2.5m

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) on Mar. 22, 2016 announced in a press statement that the national “[h]ardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators Inc. has paid the California Air Resources Board (ARB) $2.5 million to settle ARB claims that Lumber Liquidators sold, supplied, or offered for sale in California wood products that ARB testing showed exceeded state formaldehyde limits, and that Lumber Liquidators failed to take reasonable prudent precautions to ensure those products met such limits designed to protect public health.

“During inspections at Lumber Liquidators’ stores in California between September 2013 and May 2015 ARB staff obtained boxes of laminate flooring samples for testing that were labeled as compliant. According to a signed settlement agreement between ARB and Lumber Liquidators, ARB notified the company of its testing showing that some of these samples showed exceedances of state formaldehyde limits and alleging that the company failed to take reasonable prudent precautions to ensure that laminate flooring sold in California contained composite wood products that complied with the formaldehyde emissions standards set forth in California’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) for composite wood products,” the ARB in the press statement continued.

When it comes to electrical equipment and electronic appliances and tools made available for in-the-home use, when such are used properly (that is, in accordance with said products’ manufacturer-supplied operating instructions), consumers have an expectation that such won’t present an undue danger (in this case, that undue danger being an electrical shock or electrocution hazard), so, should it be any different regarding any product made available to consumers to improve the home, composite laminate flooring included? One would think not. This almost goes without saying.

As it relates to wood-product composites specifically, the ARB in the press statement adds: “Under ARB’s regulation, composite wood products must be independently certified as complying with the state standard for formaldehyde,” further adding that, “[c]ompanies that make finished products are required to label the products as having been made with certified compliant composite wood products, to keep records to verify that they have purchased compliant products, and to inform distributors and retailers that their flooring is compliant with California’s regulations.”

So, how can consumers be assured that the type of situation whereby flooring containing formaldehyde (CH2O) at unsafe levels as determined through air-regulator-approved testing procedures and processes will not be repeated?

As it pertains to Lumber Liquidators specifically, the ARB related, “… Lumber Liquidators has developed, and agreed to implement, a ‘Fabricator Laminate Evaluation and Audit Program’ and a ‘Composite Core Testing Research Program,’ requiring the company to conduct regular audits of existing and new suppliers and to randomly test composite core samples in accordance with ARB’s standard operating procedure for preparing finished goods samples for testing.”

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Image above: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory

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