CDC Reports Unsafe Formaldehyde In Laminate Flooring

- by Nina Hwang and Jen Sass

An important Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report identifies health risks from unsafe levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring sold at Lumber Liquidators® (see new CDC report Feb 2016).

CDC initially calculated the cancer risk from laminate flooring to be an additional two to nine cancer cases per 100,000 people exposed, but updated its calculations a few days later, saying its indoor air model had some errors, and the actual cancer risk is 3-times higher. That is, six to 27 cancer cases per 100,000 people. This might seem low. But consider the context: when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates chemicals, its aim is to not exceed a cancer risk of one in one million. CDC noted that the higher levels, "could cause increased frequency of asthma symptoms and respiratory issues for people with asthma and COPD" (NPR report)

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You may recall the highly contaminated trailers FEMA used years ago to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Some laminate flooring samples released emissions even higher than the average concentrations measured in those FEMA trailers. The CDC report points out that, at these emission levels, adverse health effects include an increased risk of hospitalizations in asthmatic children. These health effects can be uncomfortable and scary for children, and can result in lost school and work time.

The CDC report point out that levels return to normal within two years of installation. That's two years of living, eating, sleeping, and playing in rooms with elevated formaldehyde fumes, and potentially multiple ER visits for asthma attacks, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and other health problems.

Lumber Liquidators® should not be let off the hook. Unfortunately, a Wall St Journal (WSJ) article ("Regulator Sees Little Cancer Risk ...," February 10, 2016) on the CDC report points out that the "pummeled Lumber Liquidators shares [and] hurt sales". That seems like a much lower cost than the price unsuspecting consumers and their families will pay with their health. The (WSJ) article may leave readers with the impression that these risks are negligible. They are not.

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program

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