March 9, 2015 — The founder of Lumber Liquidators says accusations about toxic levels of formaldehyde in their Chinese-made laminate wood products are based on improper tests.
Last week, a 60 Minutes report accused the company of boosting their profits by selling laminate floors that have higher levels of formaldehyde, a cheap chemical used in the glues that bond sawdust particles to create the “core” of the board.
When the news organization tested 31 products, 30 failed to meet limits for formaldehyde emissions set by the California Air Resources Board.
Tom Sullivan, founder and chairman of Lumber Liquidators, has called into question the testing methods used by 60 Minutes. According to an update on the company’s website providing more detail on the subject:
“60 Minutes used an improper test method in its reporting that is not included in California’s regulations and does not measure a product according to how it is actually used by consumers. 60 Minutes used a “deconstructive test,” which would be like testing the emissions of a car by removing the catalytic converter and muffler.”
Lumber Liquidators says the proper test is first performed on the fiberboard core. Then a second round of testing is performed on the finished product. Tests using this method show formaldehyde emissions at acceptable levels, mostly because the laminated surface helps seal in the formaldehyde.
In contrast, 60 Minutes took a finished product and deconstructed it, removed the laminate and sanded the surface of the fiberboard core. When they tested for formaldehyde emissions, they were understandably much higher than “finished” products tested by Lumber Liquidators.
At the end of the day, it will likely be up to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to decide which tests should be used to determine formaldehyde emissions.
Meanwhile, investors who are short-selling the company’s stock are making money now that it’s dropped by over 50% in the wake of these allegations. Those same investors were the ones who first accused the company of impropriety. They’re also bankrolling several class action lawsuits on behalf of people who have this flooring installed in their homes.