The CDC/ATSDR (Centers for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) announced this week that it had made a mistake in its February 10, 2016 report concerning potential health problems from exposure to formaldehyde from laminate flooring samples. The risk is greater than the CDC previously reported. Laminate flooring raises the risk of cancer when it contains large amounts of formaldehyde.
CDC/ATSDR reports that it was notified February 13 of an error released in its February 10, 2016 report regarding health effects from formaldehyde in some laminate flooring samples. The agency said it has now revised its estimate of health risks for people with the laminate flooring.
The agency originally said there was a risk of cancer in 2-9 out of every 100,000 people; but now it says the actual risk is three times greater. It estimates the risk of cancer is 6-30 cases for every 100,000 people exposed.
The CDC/ATSDR said its miscalculations were due to its using an incorrect value for ceiling height.
Laminate Flooring raises Cancer Risk
Exposure to formaldehyde in indoor air, said the agency, could cause increased frequency of asthma symptoms and other respiratory issues for people with asthma and COPD; exposure to higher-end levels could result in eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone.
The CDC said its recommendations will likely remain the same: “We strongly stress taking steps to reduce exposures, which should alleviate respiratory and eye, nose and throat irritation. These steps should also reduce the cancer risk.”
Currently, CDC/ATSDR is conducting a quality review of the indoor air model and the revised results. The new draft report will be reviewed by CPSC, EPA, and HUD. The agency said it will post the revised report when it becomes available.
Lumber Liquidators under Fire
Lumber Liquidators sells wood and other building supplies at a discount. A report that aired in August 2015 on CBS’ 60 Minutes shared some alarming findings from independent lab tests performed on laminate flooring samples from Lumber Liquidators. The company claimed those tests were inaccurate, and questioned the motives of those behind the allegations.
Small exposures to formaldehyde may present an acceptable risk to most people, but formaldehyde is a toxic poison, and breathing its vapors is the quickest way to get it into one’s bloodstream. Prolonged exposure can be especially dangerous.
According to CBS, one environmental toxins expert said: “I would say long-term exposure [at the high levels found in Lumber Liquidators’s samples] would be risky because it would increase the risk for chronic respiratory irritation, change in a person’s lung function, increased risk of asthma.” While the higher levels might not affect everyone in the short-term, children, pets and anyone with breathing-related issues might be vulnerable.
Some independent testers found levels of formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators samples that were so high they thought their equipment was broken; the levels were sometimes higher than the equipment could measure. Some samples emitted formaldehyde levels twenty times over the legal limit in California building materials.
Conflicts of Interest for Critics?
An environmental scientist and a lawyer are some of the leading critics against Lumber Liquidators. They are working at the behest of homeowners concerned about potentially toxic flooring, but they are backed financially by investors who believe the stock price for Lumber Liquidators is too high compared with the company’s real value; these people are shorting the stock while they criticize the company.
Lumber Liquidators countered: “These attacks are driven by a small group of short-selling investors who are working together.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice may be filing criminal charges against Lumber Liquidators for selling tropical hardwoods that may have been harvested illegally.