A products liability professor from the University of Richmond says Lumber Liquidators could be facing lawsuits in the wake of a recent “60 Minutes” report, accusing the company of selling formaldehyde-tainted laminate flooring.
In the report, which aired March 1, CBS News claims that laminate flooring made for Lumber Liquidators in China contains formaldehyde levels that greatly exceed the same California emissions standards that will soon be adopted at the federal level.
When inhaled, formaldehyde emissions can cause cancer – myeloid leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer – as well as respiratory problems and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, according to “60 Minutes.”
Tom Sullivan, the founder and chairman of Lumber Liquidators, told CBS News that the company’s Chinese-made laminate flooring met regulatory standards and said the company would conduct its own investigation in the wake of the report.
Carl Tobias, who teaches products liability law at the University of Richmond School of Law, told the Times-Dispatch that Lumber Liquidators could face the possibility of being sued by those who claim illness from formaldehyde exposure.
“[W]hat’s more likely probably is the push for replacements and repairs and compensation for economic losses,” Tobias said.
Doctor: Children Most Likely Impacted by High Formaldehyde Levels
According to the Times-Dispatch, Lumber Liquidators has been based in Virginia since the late 1990s. The company’s current headquarters are in Toano, which is located just west of Williamsburg. Earlier this year, Lumber Liquidators opened a new distribution center in White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County.
The company has 354 stores in the U.S. and Canada, the Times-Dispatch reports. According to “60 Minutes,” every year, more than 100 million square feet of the company’s laminate flooring is installed in U.S. homes.
The glue that binds the wood particles in laminate flooring often contains formaldehyde, which can leak into the air, CBS News states. California has set strict standards for these emissions. Congress adopted California’s standards in 2010. Those standards will apply nationwide later this year, CBS reports.
The standards are aimed at protecting people from becoming ill. As Dr. Philip Landrigan of New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital told “60 Minutes,” long-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can lead to health problems such as chronic respiratory irritation and asthma.
“It’s not going to produce symptoms in everyone but children will be the people most likely to show symptoms at that sort of level,” the doctor told CBS News.
Investigative Report Finds Laminate Flooring Exceeds Safety Standards
In the “60 Minutes” piece, reporter Anderson Cooper interviews the director of a watchdog group, Global Community Monitor, and an environmental attorney. (The report states that the men have been backed by “short-sale investors” who could profit if Lumber Liquidators’ stock prices fall.)
The two men sent laminate flooring they bought at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Lumber Liquidators stores in California to labs for testing. The Lumber Liquidators’ samples included flooring made in the U.S. and in China.
All of the samples met California safety standards except for the China-made Lumber Liquidators flooring. In fact, some of those samples were “six to seven times” higher than acceptable formaldehyde levels, the men told CBS News.
“60 Minutes” dug deeper for its report. First, the show sent undercover investigators who posed as buyers to three mills in Changzhou, China that manufacture Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring.
According to the report, workers at those mills “openly admitted” to the undercover investigators that the flooring exceeded California formaldehyde standards – even though it was labeled as being compliant.
Additionally, “60 Minutes” bought 31 boxes of laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators stores in Virginia as well as in Florida, New York, Illinois and Texas. CBS sent the boxes to two certified labs for testing. According to the report, only one of those boxes met formaldehyde emissions limits.
At Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C., we will continue to monitor this situation closely. If you believe that you have suffered harm due to defective laminate flooring, contact us today for a free review of your case.