Lumber Liquidators To Pay California $2.5M For Having Too Much Formaldehyde In Its Flooring

More than a year ago, a 60 Minutes report on the formaldehyde levels in laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators kicked off a string of investigations, and lawsuits, culminating with the exit of the company’s CEO. Today, California regulators finally closed the book on its Lumber Liquidators case after the retailer agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle charges is sold flooring that contained formaldehyde in excess of the state’s allowable levels.

Formaldehyde is commonly used in the manufacture of laminate flooring, but in levels that are intended to evaporate quickly and not pose any risk to the end user. However, tests on some laminate flooring that Lumber Liquidators sourced from China turned up evidence of excessive use of formaldehyde, to the point where the chemical would still be present after being installed in a home.

Prolonged, continued exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to numerous health problems ranging from nausea to increased cancer risk. Children are more susceptible than adults to the toxic effects of formaldehyde, and since little kids often spend lots of time on or close to the floor, that puts them in closer contact with the formaldehyde.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) says that it tested of samples purchased from Lumber Liquidators between Sept. 2013 and May 2015. All of the products used for the tests were advertised as being compliant with CARB standards, but each of them exceeded the state’s allowable levels for the chemical.

Last May, Lumber Liquidators put a halt to laminate flooring sourced from China. It now sells vinyl flooring that does not use formaldehyde.

At the time, the retailer professed its belief that the company’s flooring suppliers had complied with safety standards. The company said that recent results of home testing kits from customers with the at-issue flooring showed that “over 97% of customers’ homes were within the protective guidelines established by the World Health Organization for formaldehyde levels in indoor air.”

In spite of LL’s public insistence of having done nothing improper, CARB says that retailer nevertheless complied with investigators and that the $2.5 million has already been deposited in the state’s Air Pollution Control Fund.

The retailer also agreed to implement a new “Fabricator Laminate Evaluation and Audit Program” and a “Composite Core Testing Research Program,” that will require Lumber Liquidators to to conduct regular audits of existing and new suppliers and to randomly test composite core samples.

“Consumer safety is our top priority and, over the past year, we have implemented a number of customer-focused initiatives,” said new CEO John Presley in a statement. “We strengthened our quality assurance procedures, launched the largest voluntary testing program in our nation’s history and, in May 2015, voluntarily suspended the sale of all laminate flooring sourced from China. We look forward to continuing to work with CARB to establish new industry standards for flooring product testing.”