After Lumber Liquidators came under the scrutiny of CBS' 60 Minute TV program for elevated levels of formaldehyde in some of their flooring products, the national flooring chain offered to send out test kits to 10,000 customers who purchased the offending wood. A nice gesture, perhaps, but now there are serious questions about the efficacy of the kits.
A class-action complaint has been filled in Federal Court in California on behalf of six plaintiffs. The complaint's introduction tracks the company's history with the Chinese-manufactured composite-laminate flooring, alleges the company knew of the product's unsafe level of formaldehyde "for nearly two years," and cites 60 Minutes' findings.
It gets worse. Paragraph 56 of the complaint is particularly damning:
"Lumber Liquidators next began offering a free home testing kit to customers who purchased its Chinese-made composite flooring products. The third party providing the home testing kits is not independent, but is being paid by Lumber Liquidators. The testing kits being offered do not use testing methods that are commonly accepted and that CARB recommends. The tests Lumber Liquidators is offering are inherently unreliable, designed to under-report the formaldehyde levels present in the composite flooring, and are not designed to measure formaldehyde emissions from a particular source."
Tom Neltner is the Special Advisor on Regulatory Affairs at the National Center for Healthy Housing (nchh.org), a non-profit organization "dedicated to establishing healthy, green, and safe homes for families … through research, education, training, and policy efforts."
In an email to JLC regarding the test kits, Neltner said that the kits wouldn't give valid results if there's a lack of air flowing past them. He wrote, "The kits typically need an average of at least 15 feet of air flowing across the face every minute. In a workplace, they are designed to be worn by an active worker. But if the kit is left on a coffee table or desk in a home, you are unlikely to get that kind of air movement without a fan."
He concluded, "The test kits are useful if used properly—meaning plenty of air movement across the face. But don't trust them if not used properly."