In the most recent episode of 60 Minutes, it was alleged that the United States flooring producer, Lumber Liquidators, has been producing laminate flooring that contains unsafe levels of formaldehyde. All of Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring that was produced in China failed to meet the formaldehyde emission standards set by the state of California. It is estimated that the toxic floors have been installed in hundreds of thousands of homes across the country.
Formaldehyde, which is a common ingredient in the glue used to create laminate flooring, can cause myeloid leukemia and other cancers when exposed at high levels, as well as respiratory issues and eye, nose and throat irritation at low levels. The levels of formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators Chinese made floors are high enough that they may cause significant adverse health risks, especially in children. These floors are not safe.
California has a formaldehyde emission standard for all products being sold in the state. Congress adopted and implemented the standards set by California when it enacted the Formaldehyde Standards Act in 2010. In a study discussed by 60 Minutes, every sample from Home Depot and Lowes’, as well as the American produced Lumber Liquidators’ samples, passed the formaldehyde emissions tests. However, every single Chinese made Lumber Liquidator sample failed to meet Californias formaldehyde emission standards.
Not only did these floors fail to meet emission standards, but they contained, on average, six to seven times the legal limit for formaldehyde. Some of the samples contained up to 20 times the legal formaldehyde limit. The samples were testing at such high levels that the lab technicians analyzing the samples thought that their laboratory equipment was malfunctioning.
When 60 Minutes approached Lumber Liquidators’ founder and chairman, Tom Sullivan, about the test results, Sullivan claimed that the tests were invalid and that Lumber Liquidators is not required by law to test finished products.
Lumber Liquidators is now at the center of a class action lawsuit being brought by the nonprofit group, Global Community Monitor, and environmental attorney Richard Drury. As many families around the country are having to tear up their floors because it may be making them sick, the nonprofit group is seeking to have Lumber Liquidators held accountable for their distribution of unsafe products.
When Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes asked the executive director of the Global Community Monitor, Denny Larson, how much it would cost to replace all of the toxic floors that have already been installed in American homes, Larson responded, “You know what? I don’t care. Because they’re guilty of selling people product that could make them sick.”
“Our goal is to sell a good product at a good price,” Sullivan of Lumber Liquidators said. “And we don’t get the price by skimping on anything. We get the price by low overhead, huge volume and being very efficient at what we do. And we’re never going to sell something unsafe.” Unfortunately for Sullivan, and Lumber Liquidator customers, it appears that the flooring wholesaler has done just that – produced a dangerous product.
60 Minutes sent an investigative team to China to look into the mills that supply Lumber Liquidators with their laminate flooring. Posing as buyers and with the use of hidden cameras, the team were told by employees that the mills were indeed using core boards with higher levels of formaldehyde to save the company up to 15% on price. The three Chinese flooring mills also admitted to wrongfully labeling products as CARB 2–compliant when they knew that they were not.
What is considered CARB 2-compliant? CARB stands for California Air Resources Board. This is the board that sets the acceptable levels of formaldehyde (and other emissions) that can be contained in a product. If a product passes the emissions standards set by CARB, including formaldehyde emissions, the producer of the product can place a CARB-2 compliant label on its products.
Every package of Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring wrongfully had a CARB-2 compliant label on it. Including this label indicates that their flooring is a safe product, when in fact it is not. Manufacturers must label their products in such a manner as to warn any potential consumer of all dangers associated with the product’s proper and foreseeable uses. All possible hazards associated with the product should be stated on a proper warning label.
Falsely labeling products as CARB-2 is almost the exact opposite of placing a disclaimer or a warning label on a product. Instead of revealing a dangerous characteristic, the manufacturer is wrongfully using a label to further conceal a dangerous defect.
This is not the first time Lumber Liquidators has been under the microscope for their wrongdoings. In 2012 they were accused of illegally harvesting lumber in Russia to increase profit margins. While Lumber Liquidators denies these allegations of illegal logging, the company announced this week the Department of Justice may be pressing criminal charges against the company in the near future.
It apprears that Lumber Liquidators is going to have a serious products liability case on their hands. The evidence against them is overwhelming and it is likely that more evidence will come forward as 60 Minutes has placed this story into the national spotlight. I hope that the individuals and families who have been taken advantage of both physically and financially find justice when this issue concludes.
Each year, thousands of victims sustain serious injuries from dangerous and defective products. Home appliances, foods, drugs, automobiles, medical devices, medical implants, and a variety of countless other products used by consumers every day can go wrong and cause catastrophic injuries and deaths.
Severe personal injuries and wrongful deaths could be avoided if the manufacturers or distributors of these products took reasonable steps to ensure consumer safety. If you or a family member or loved one has been injured, or died, as a result of injuries due to the use of a dangerous or defective product, you may be able to file a claim against the manufacturer to recover damages. You do not necessarily have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent.
We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, and what clients have to say about us and give us a call for a free consultation where our lawyers will sit down with you personally. Our firm represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion. Feel free to give the Law Offices of John M. Phillips a call at 904-444-4444.