Global Community Monitor: Lumber Liquidators flooring emits hazardous levels
Lawsuit: Products from Chinese factories emit toxic gas in excess of 100 times
OAKLAND, Calif., July 23, 2014
OAKLAND, Calif., July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- In the latest environmental
black eye for Lumber Liquidators, independent lab tests show that Chinese-made
flooring sold by the chain emits formaldehyde at levels far above the level
requiring cancer warnings under California law, according to a lawsuit filed
today by Global Community Monitor.
Lumber Liquidators (NYSE:LL) claims on its website that all of its flooring
comes from mills certified as compliant with California's standards for
formaldehyde. Plaintiffs conductedmore than 50 tests of Lumber Liquidators'
Chinese-made laminate flooring, using a variety of different testing methods
and sample batches. Test resultsshowed average initial formaldehyde exposures
over 100 times above the amount allowed to be sold without a warning label
under Proposition 65, California's main toxics law.
Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in the glue used in laminate flooring and
other pressed-wood products, including those sold by Lumber Liquidators.
During and after installation, it is released as a gas that causes burning
eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, joint pain
and nausea. At long-term exposure, formaldehyde is listed as a known cause of
cancer in humans by both the federal government and the State of California.
Proposition 65 requires products containing chemicals that cause cancer to
carry a warning label if the levels exceed the so-called "safe harbor" level.
But none of the Lumber Liquidators samples tested had a warning label on the
box, none of the stores where samples were purchased had a Proposition 65
warning, and no warnings were provided at the time of purchase over the
"The levels of formaldehyde our tests found in Lumber Liquidators' laminate
flooring are astounding and alarming," said Denny Larson, executive director
of Global Community Monitor. "It's unconscionable that Lumber Liquidators
would sell this product to customers to install in their homes without
informing families of the potential health risks involved, especially since
they make a point of bragging about how environmentally safe it is."
The Proposition 65 complaint, filed today in state superior court in Oakland,
says: "Without exception, the Lumber Liquidators products produced in
Chinathat Plaintiffs tested produced in China emitted formaldehyde at far
higher rates than those manufactured in Europe or North America—on average,
Chinese products emitted at 350% the rate of European/North American
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of international environmental scandals
concerning Lumber Liquidators. Last September, U.S. authorities raided Lumber
Liquidators' headquartersin Toano, Va., and seized company records to
investigate possible violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the import
of illegally harvested hardwood. A month later, the nonprofit Environmental
Investigation Agency charged that Lumber Liquidators sells timber illegally
logged from forests in the Russian Far East. Two months ago, Greenpeace linked
Lumber Liquidators to illegal logging in the Amazon.
Lumber Liquidators' formaldehyde problem came to light a year ago by an
article on the blog Seeking Alpha by an investor named Xuhua Zhou, who
conducted his own tests in which one sample of Lumber Liquidators engineered
wood flooring tested at three and a half times the level allowed under
California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards. Global Community Monitoring
was joined in the lawsuit by Sunshine Park, a firm affiliated with private
investment companies that have substantial short financial exposure to Lumber
Liquidators. Sunshine Park and its affiliates financed the extensive testing
and have conducted substantial on-the-ground investigation regarding Chinese
laminate flooring production.
Xuhua Zhou wrote to CARB about his findings a year ago but the agency
apparently took no enforcement action. Proposition 65 allows citizens to bring
suit to enforce the law. Under its provisions, Lumber Liquidators could be hit
with penalties of $2,500 a day for every box of laminate flooring sold in
California—a figure that could reach tens of billions of dollars.
Michael Lozeau of Lozeau Drury LLP, an Oakland law firm representing Global
Community Monitor and Sunshine Park, said: "Lumber Liquidators boasts 'big
savings on flooring.' But Lumber Liquidators' low prices appear to be due in
part to its business practice of selling inexpensive, largely Chinese-sourced
products that violate California formaldehyde standards without proper
With 344 stores in 46 states and Canada, Lumber Liquidators had sales of more
than $1 billion in 2013. Its stock has plummeted in recent weeks, a drop the
company attributed in part to "Certain mills (experiencing) production delays
. . . as we continued to enhance our quality assurance requirements." That may
mean the company is looking into the problem with Chinese mills, but it
continues to sell laminate flooring products with high levels of formaldehyde.
Contacts: Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911
Denny Larson,Executive Director,(415) 845-4705
Michael Lozeau, Esq., Lozeau Drury LLP, (510) 836-4200
SOURCE Global Community Monitor
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