What to do if you have Lumber Liquidators' laminate flooring linked to cancer
Consumers have few options for recourse if they installed certain types of laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators that could be linked to elevated cancer risks from high formaldehyde levels.
Experts said options include removing it, opening a window for more ventilation, or joining a class-action lawsuit.
High levels of the chemical in some China-made flooring sold before May 2015 increases cancer risks and could worsen breathing problems in some people or cause irritation to the nose, eyes or lungs, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Products included the Dream Home line of laminate flooring, according to the Global Community Monitor, a California environmental group.
Lumber Liquidators said in a March 2015 report on CBS' "60 Minutes" that it believes the Chinese-made flooring is safe. But the company is offering free air quality test kits to consumers.
"Beyond proactively suspending all sales of Chinese-sourced laminate in May 2015, we continue offering qualified customers free third-party air quality tests to provide objective scientific information about formaldehyde in their home," the company told the Daily Herald in a statement through a spokesman.
A company spokesman did not respond to questions on whether consumers would be reimbursed for buying or replacing the laminate flooring.
Lumber Liquidators has 374 stores in 46 states, including 11 stores in the area, such as Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook, Lombard, Crystal Lake, Naperville, South Elgin and West Chicago.
The controversy reignited this week after the CDC said it underestimated the health risks to consumers. "The estimated risk of cancer associated with exposure to the flooring increased," the CDC report said on Feb. 18.
The revised report estimated the cancer risk is six to 30 cases per 100,000 people. The CDC's first report said the affected flooring posed a low risk of cancer with two to nine cases per 100,000 people.
Virginia-based Lumber Liquidators reported about 97 percent of tested homes were within the guidelines established by the World Health Organization for formaldehyde levels of indoor air, a company news release said.
However, the government questions the accuracy of home tests. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not recommend any home test kit, because it "has not tested or verified the accuracy of home test kits for formaldehyde," the agency report said.
The EPA suggested if the flooring is still in your home, you should increase ventilation and keep temperature and humidity levels low.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended in a report about formaldehyde, but not specifically about Lumber Liquidators, that consumers should increase "ventilation by opening doors and windows and by using an exhaust fan to air out indoor spaces."
The commission suggested replacing the floor with wood floors that are not acid cured. Or consider installing pressed-wood products, such as particleboard or hardwood plywood that have labels of compliance with the American National Standards Institute or California Air Resources Board Air Toxics Control Measure criteria.
However, the CDC said formaldehyde levels should drop to normal levels within two years after the flooring was installed, raising the question of whether some consumers need to replace it. The agency noted removing the flooring could raise formaldehyde levels in the air.
A flooring expert, Naperville-based Russell Martin Carpet and Rugs Inc., said all consumers should question whatever product they buy because it surrounds them in their home.
"Whether it's a hard or soft surface product, you should look at the quality you are buying," said Kate Martin-Moeller, business manager at Russell Martin, "You need to just keep asking questions.