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From Products Liability Law Daily, June 17, 2016

Lumber Liquidators will not resume sales of Chinese-made laminate flooring, recall to test program continues

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Lumber Liquidators, of Toano, Va., has agreed not to resume sales of laminate wood flooring previously imported from China and to continue conducting a comprehensive testing program as part of a voluntary recall program that affects about 614,000 consumers who purchased Chinese-made laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators from 2011 through May 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced. This announcement follows the agency’s completion of its evaluation of the safety of the imported laminated flooring (CPSC Press Release, No. 16-198, June 16, 2016).

Lumber Liquidators suspended the sale of Chinese-made laminate flooring in May 2015 and announced its decision not to sell about 22 million board feet of this flooring. Any future sale, disposal or transfer of the inventory can only take place with CPSC’s approval. Lumber Liquidators agreed that its future laminate flooring products will be subject to enhanced supplier controls designed to achieve compliance with California formaldehyde requirements and any future federal requirements for laminate flooring. Currently, Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring only comes from North America and Europe.

In February 2016, the Department of Justice announced that a federal court in Virginia ordered the company to pay more than $13 million in criminal fines, perform community service, and forfeit assets related to its illegal importation of Chinese-made laminate.

Testing by Lumber Liquidators. Following its suspension of sales in 2015, Lumber Liquidators began testing the flooring and to date has tested the air quality in more than 17,000 households. The company also retained third-party certified laboratories to conduct formaldehyde emissions tests for about 1,300 of those consumers’ floors. None of those floors has tested above the remediation guideline. In addition, CPSC has dedicated significant resources to determine if the Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators and installed in homes represents a health risk. The flooring was the focus of a 60 Minutessegment in March 2015 alleging that certain boards did not meet current California Air Resources Board standards for formaldehyde emission.

CPSC investigation. As part of its investigation, CPSC staff purchased samples of the product and contracted with certified laboratories to test for formaldehyde released from those flooring samples reported by 60 Minutes to have the highest formaldehyde emission. CPSC also asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) evaluate the testing results for possible human health effects from formaldehyde released into indoor air from this China-manufactured laminate flooring. CPSC staff reviewed the ATSDR report and substantially concurred with their findings. Specifically, CPSC and ATSDR determined that eye, nose, and throat irritation could occur with the higher formaldehyde emitting flooring samples in certain home environments. Irritation can happen in anyone, but is more likely among children, older adults, and people with respiratory issues, such as asthma or other breathing problems. Very high levels of formaldehyde in homes may also be associated with a small increase in cancer risk.

Recall to test program. Lumber Liquidators, in cooperation with CPSC, is encouraging consumers who purchased Chinese-made laminate flooring from the company from February 2012 through May 2015 to request a badge kit and screening test. There is no cost for the kits. For consumers found to have elevated levels of formaldehyde in their homes, Lumber Liquidators will contact them for more extensive testing of their laminate flooring. Based on these test results, Lumber Liquidators has agreed to work with consumers to reduce the formaldehyde emissions levels and improve the indoor air quality of the home. If those efforts are unsuccessful, the company will pay for a certified industrial hygienist to examine the home and propose an additional remedy for the homeowner. The additional remedy would be free to the consumer and could involve replacement of the flooring or repairs to the home.

Consumer information sources. Consumers with questions or concerns about the products used in their own homes may contact the CPSC Consumer Hotline at 800-638-2772. Additional information on formaldehyde can be found at www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Home/ and information on sources of formaldehyde and where levels may be higher can be found at www.cdc.gov/nceh/formaldehyde. Finally, the CPSC has prepared a document containing Frequently Asked Questions to assist consumers who have questions.

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