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Embattled Floor Giant Offers Test Kits

Monday, March 23, 2015

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Besieged by accusations of excessive formaldehyde in its Chinese-made laminate flooring, Lumber Liquidators is providing free test kits to thousands of U.S. customers who have the popular product in their homes.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Senator has called for independent testing of both the flooring and the company's marketing claims.

TomSullivan_LL
Lumber Liquidators

Founder and CEO Tom Sullivan says Lumber Liquidators stands by both its hardwood importing practices and the safety of its laminate flooring.

The nation's largest hardwood flooring retailer has been on the defensive since Feb. 25, when it disclosed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the company may face criminal charges stemming from a ongoing Justice Department investigation.

2 Products, 2 Investigations

The government is "contemplating seeking criminal charges under the Lacey Act," which prohibits illegal trafficking of animals and plants, including illegally logged woods, Lumber Liquidators reported to the SEC.

A 2013 investigation and documentary by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency detailed accusations that Lumber Liquidators was knowingly buying "millions of square feet of illegal hardwood" from protected tiger habitats in Russia. The lumber was shipped through China for milling and distribution, Liquidating the Forests reported.

Days later, the CBS News program 60 Minutes aired a scathing report about another Lumber Liquidators product: laminate flooring made in China.

Formaldehye, a known human carcinogen, is a common ingredient in the glue used in laminate flooring and other pressed-wood products.

NBC News screen grab

Formaldehyde test kits have been mailed free to thousands of Lumber Liquidators customers, NBC News reported.

However, CBS reported that independent testing—its own and some by the group Global Community Monitor—showed that "every single sample of Chinese-made laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators failed to meet California formaldehyde emissions standards—many by a large margin."

Lumber Liquidators refuted the results and challenged the network's testing methods.

Strike 3

Within days of the 60 Minutes report, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that he wanted a federal investigation into whether the products pose a health risk to the public.

“Because this could affect millions of homeowners, it’s imperative we get some answers quickly,” said Nelson, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

In a letter March 4 to the heads of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Nelson called for independent testing of the flooring.

SenBillNelson
Official photo

“Because this could affect millions of homeowners, it’s imperative we get some answers quickly,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who is seeking a federal investigation.

Nelson has also been active in the movement to compensate homeowners who have defective Chinese-made drywall installed in their homes.

Free Test Kits

The Toano, VA-based company has repeatedly asserted the safety of its products.

However, NBC News reported Tuesday (March 17) that the company "has sent thousands of customers free 'idiot-proof' formaldehyde test kits."

The kits, available through Lumber Liquidators' web site, contain a plastic disk tester in a small black bag, instructions and a mailing pouch, said NBC. The test period is 24 to 48 hours; results will be emailed to customers in seven to 10 business days, the network said.

"If formaldehyde levels are over the acceptable threshold, the test lab will notify both the customer and Lumber Liquidators," NBC reported. "The flooring company may then decide to have the lab do a 'home health check'" that could involve additional testing.

gcmonitor.org

The environmental group Global Community Monitor says independent testing shows illegally high formaldehyde levels in Lumber Liquidators' Chinese-made laminate flooring.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesperson said the kits could provide "acceptable results" if "used correctly." A North Carolina testing lab, which did not supply the kits, called them "almost idiot-proof."

WRAL-TV identified the lab as Sensors Safety Products, of Raleigh, NC, which advertises $90 lumber formaldehyde test kits on its homepage.

The kits have been sent to 3,000 to 5,000 Lumber Liquidators customers as of last week, the report said.

Stock Struggle

Lumber Liquidators, which saw its share price rocket from $13 to 2011 to $119 in 2013, has seen its fortunes reversed in the last 15 months.

Trading of the stock was briefly halted on the morning after the 60 Minutes program. Since trading resumed, the price has slid steadily.

As recently as Feb. 24, the share price was $68.48. At mid-day Friday (March 20), the price was $28.88.

   

Tagged categories: Flooring system; Government; Health and safety; Indoor air quality; Residential Construction; Testing + Evaluation

Comment from Eric Rosenthal, (3/23/2015, 2:02 PM)

It's all about greed. We continue buying crap from a country that exploits it people and abuses their environment. What do you expect? 90% of the people there don't even have clean water to drink.


Comment from Chuck Pease, (3/23/2015, 3:28 PM)

Good comment Eric. Greed is insidious. Greed in our country has contributed greatly to the decline of our great nation. We have allowed more and more US companies to go offshore with their operations and it has destroyed our mfgring abilities here in America, all in the name of cheaper goods and commodities. WE cannot compete with nations that have no human rights per se and pay their workers slave wages.What made America great was the industrial era and we have all but destroyed that over the last 20-30 years. Well done to you Hawks on the Hill. Thanks for looking out for America!!!


Comment from peter gibson, (3/25/2015, 6:11 PM)

What a disconnect....CBS test finds Form. and LL finds none.... How does that work in this day and age.


Comment from Michael Quaranta, (3/27/2015, 4:07 PM)

Time will tell that CBS has made another serious mistake. Laminate flooring is manufactured on machines made in Germany and to German specifications, further covered by specifications from the NALFA. This is the same media hype that came out of Ferguson - - - "raise your hands, don't shoot" ... !!! In the manner of physics let it be known that formaldehyda has a half-life of 19-hours. Look up that little known fact and have comfort in the laminate flooring product line. Also, if you cook fish at home the fumes contain formaldehyde. If you take any medical time release pills there is formaldehyde in the capsule!!! Then how about the known fact that several American flooring manufacturers have gone to China and brought their own German machines for the labor cost? I'm only interested in the truth and not any media hype with Anderson Cooper. Sorry Peter but none of the tests that CBS performed are in any regular procedure and certainly not the "distructive test"!!! They only do that in the automotive industry and there are no air bags or seat belts with laminate flooring. I'd certainly like to be the technical and allowable testing advisor for the flooring industry to defend any Class Action Lawsuit and especially to educate the pople who brought the suites.


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