After a devastating report accused Lumber Liquidators of selling laminate flooring from China that contained high levels of formaldehyde, the company is now under a federal investigation. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the probe last month. There are five stores in Alabama selling the flooring, including one in Montgomery. There are stores located in many other states.
The company was the subject of a recent report on the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” which said the discount flooring retailer sold wood that violated safety limits set by the California Air Resources Board. Lumber Liquidators disputed the accusations and testing methods used by the news program, and maintains that its products are safe. Many items like furniture and disinfectants can leak formaldehyde, and consumers might not be able to determine how much of it was coming from Lumber Liquidators’ flooring or from other sources.
For those who may not know, laminate flooring is an artificial product that is a cheaper alternative to hardwood and other higher-end wood products. The core of a board is made up of various materials, including wood, glued together with an adhesive that typically includes formaldehyde. A top layer placed on the core produces the final panel.
Formaldehyde seeps into the air over time, and California tests the emission level of the core of the boards. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and its long-term health effects are not well understood. Exposure to a lot of formaldehyde in a short period can produce immediate symptoms like burning of the eyes and throat, and can aggravate asthma. But scientists do not know definitively how much formaldehyde, over how long a period, can cause certain types of cancers. But there is enough information for consumers to be concerned.
There has been a number of class action lawsuits filed against Lumber Liquidators Inc. over the company’s sale of the formaldehyde-laden Chinese flooring. Unhappy customers have filed a pair of proposed class actions accusing the retailer of duping consumers by falsely claiming that its inventory complies with state emissions standards for the toxic chemical. The two false advertising complaints — filed last month in California and South Carolina federal courts, respectively — alleged that the company routinely sells Chinese-made flooring that greatly exceeds California Air Resource Board standards for safe formaldehyde emissions.
Interestingly, Lumber Liquidators still advertises on its website and elsewhere that it ensures all of its suppliers comply with California’s “advanced environmental requirements,” even for products sold in other states. The California lawsuit relies heavily on the 60 Minutes story.
In Sept. 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement service executed a search warrant at the company’s corporate offices in Toano and Richmond, Va. The nature of the warrant wasn’t revealed by federal authorities, but multiple media reports linked the raid to wood suspected of having originated from the Siberian tiger’s habitat.
Our firm’s Toxic Torts Section is currently looking into the lumber liquidators issues. We have been contacted by a number of individuals who have had problems. If you need additional information on this subject, contact Rhon Jones or Parker Miller, lawyers in the firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: New York Times and Law360.com
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