Health Risks of Laminate Flooring Material
Update: Lumber Liquidators, the main importer of Chinese-made laminate flooring, has been working with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control (ATSDR) to evaluate the health risks of exposure to formaldehyde from that flooring. Air quality testing has been performed in more than 17,000 homes so far. The CPSC and the ATSDR have concluded that formaldehyde levels in some homes are great enough to cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. Lumber Liquidators has agreed to cease sales of existing inventories of Chinese flooring and has made formaldehyde testing kits available for free. For additional information, see http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/laminateflooring/default.html.
Formaldehyde is a constituent of building materials and consumer products that are found in homes, including laminate flooring material. After such flooring is installed, formaldehyde will “off-gas” into the room(s) containing the flooring. Health concerns about this material first garnered widespread attention after a “60 Minutes” TV show that aired on March 1, 2015.
Formaldehyde is an eye and respiratory tract irritant. Most people begin to notice symptoms of burning eyes, nose, and throat when exposed to formaldehyde at levels exceeding 1,000 ppb. It has been reported, however, that some individuals are more sensitive to formaldehyde than usual. These same types of irritation effects have been reported by some people exposed to as little as 100 to 300 ppb of formaldehyde.
Animals exposed to high levels of formaldehyde over a lifetime showed an increased incidence of cancer of the nasal cavity. There have been numerous epidemiological studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde. Some of those have shown an association between increased cancer incidence and occupational formaldehyde exposures.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently in the process of finalizing rule-making concerning the amount of formaldehyde that is be emitted from laminate flooring and other building materials. In a report published February 10, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that the amount of formaldehyde that can be released from laminate flooring was enough to cause irritation and breathing problems. Those most at risk are small children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory diseases.
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