So Lumber Liquidators screwed up, right?

Wow…Lumber Liquidators, Amiright?

‘Yikes!’ was mine and many others reactions to the CBS 60 Minutes report on Lumber Liquidators this past Sunday, March 1st. If you haven’t heard anything about this here are a few links to check out:

 

The Anderson Cooper 60 Minutes Transcript:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lumber-liquidators-linked-to-health-and-safety-violations/

Forbes article on the fallout:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2015/03/02/60-minutes-report-sends-lumber-liquidators-stock-plunging/

 

Essentially, Lumber Liquidators has been selling Chinese made laminate with formaldehyde content up to 13x the limit set forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB sets the acceptable level allowed by law for formaldehyde content in composite wood products in the Sunshine State and that metric happens to be one of the toughest standards in the world. It’s a really great resource and we use it as a litmus test for every wood product we consider offering. If the toxicity thing isn’t bad enough (formaldehyde is a human carcinogen), 60 Minutes also reported on allegations of illegal logging practices and apparently the Department of Justice is currently considering criminal charges.

Toxicity in wood composites and chemical off-gassing in general is one of the reasons we opened the store in the first place- to provide interior finishes that won’t negatively impact human health through the pollution of indoor air. I wasn’t surprised that cheap Chinese laminate contained egregious amounts of formaldehyde but what is pretty shocking is that LL had control over the emissions testing process and still packaged and labeled the product indicating that they were in compliance with CARB. It got me thinking about the credibility of some of the testing done on the products we sell and I didn’t sleep so easy Sunday night but my wife snores so there’s that also. I made a plan to contact our flooring manufacturers on Monday morning but when I got in I already had an inbox filled with emails containing just that (they had obviously seen 60 Minutes also). I’ll copy and paste an excerpt from Doug Foucalt, the Managing Director at EcoFusion Flooring:

Let me assure you that our products have been tested by accredited labs certified by CARB, and all passed with absurdly low levels of formaldehyde. In fact, our Tru-Core HDF product had such low levels of formaldehyde that it didn’t register on the lab equipment. Furthermore, our Engineered Pro-Core collection was tested recently against the stringent CA01350 protocol that FloorScore and other seals are based on. These documents are available on our website and the materials tested were from boxed stock. (http://www.ecofusionflooring.com/eco-impact) .

This second part of his email is more a response to a misconception about strand bamboo but still illustrates steps that responsible companies take in their manufacturing approach:

I hear far too often that strandwoven floors are “plastic”. But the truth is that our strandwoven bamboo is about 95% natural fiber with the remaining content made up of binders. Our Cold-Press manufacturing uses a Phenol based resin that off-gasses less, and for a shorter period of time, versus Urea based resins. The finish coats on our floors use a UV cured urethane finish provided to us by PPG (a US company). Once cured, the finishes are inert and the only time the finish gets airborne is if you sand it. BTW, if you’re doing that you should probably wear a protective mask because CARB also lists “wood dust” as a carcinogen.

 Sure enough, all of the testing data showed EcoFusion products well below the CARB Phase II formaldehyde threshold of .09 PPM. It’s a murky world in the low-cost building products game and it’s not something we choose to take part in. It is our commitment to continuously work with manufacturers like EcoFusion that produce a thoughtful and intelligent product and we’re happy to source the Material Safety Data Sheets and the CARB testing on every product we provide.

 

Thanks,

Zach