February 29/March 7, 2016; Volume 30, Number 18
By Ken Ryan
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released figures showing that people who purchased Lumber Liquidators laminate imported from China flooring were about three times more likely to get cancer than it had previously calculated.
On Feb. 10 the CDC reported that formaldehyde levels in some selections of Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring could cause two to nine cancer cases per 100,000 people. However, two weeks later the agency revised its estimate to six to 30 cancer cases per 100,000 people. (In addition to cancer, people exposed to the laminate flooring products in question are also susceptible to increased risks of exacerbated respiratory issues such as asthma and eye, nose and throat irritation, the CDC said.) The agency admitted it had used an incorrect value for ceiling height, resulting in health risks that were lower than they should have been.
The CDC testing stemmed from a report by “60 Minutes” last March that alleged Lumber Liquidators was selling laminate flooring with levels of formaldehyde that exceeded those allowed in California, which has the strictest standards in the country.
Specialty flooring dealers said their laminate sales have increased since the original Lumber Liquidators report, but some remain skeptical as to whether consumers are paying attention. Others contend the megastore may have damaged the category for everybody.
Eric Langan, owner and CEO of Carpetland USA, with nine locations in Iowa and Illinois, said while the numerous accusations against Lumber Liquidators are severe and serious, “It’s my opinion that the vast majority of the U.S. population is unaware of what that company has done and is doing. I would imagine the mainstream public is generally unaware of the claims, accusations, penalties and fines that Lumber Liquidators have incurred since March. For those consumers who are in the know, I anticipate they would avoid shopping at Lumber Liquidators and look to buy from an alternate source.”
At Carpet Wise Flooring America in Longmont, Colo., which is about 1,000 feet from a Lumber Liquidators’ store, laminate flooring sales have soared since the news first broke. “We have seen a 32% increase in this category, [particularly] in higher end laminate,” said Sam Chesher, owner. “After the ‘60 Minutes’ story and the added competition in hard surface, one would have thought this category would decline. Laminate has been the most surprising category for us by far.”
Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery in Louisville, Ky., said the most recent report has had another immediate impact in that consumers are asking questions about material bought at Lumber Liquidators. “Some of the questions have been, ‘How quickly can you get their material out of our homes and have something else installed?’”
Lumber Liquidators said it supports the CDC’s recommendations and it is “encouraged” that the agency is reviewing its conclusions. The company also repeated that it has strengthened its quality-assurance procedures, suspended sales of Chinese laminate and offered free air tests to customers.