If you’ve installed new flooring in your home in the past decade, there’s a good chance you selected or strongly considered laminate flooring to do the job. Laminate flooring has become very popular in homes over the last 30 years, and when you look at the options that preceded it, it’s easy to understand why. If you didn’t want to carpet a room, your main options were hardwood flooring, which is beautiful but expensive to purchase and maintain, or linoleum tile, which is inexpensive and easy to clean but ages poorly. Laminate flooring merges the best aspects of both. As we’ve learned recently, however, some laminate flooring also can make you terminally ill. The problem stems from the way laminate flooring is made. Laminate tiles usually are molded from a blend of wood fibers, polymers and other plastics, and a binding agent. That binding agent usually contains formaldehyde — the same chemical you may have seen in your high school biology lab, preserving dead frogs in jars. Some laminate binding agents contain more formaldehyde than others, because the more formaldehyde you use, the cheaper the binding agent is to make. But when you put a lot of formaldehyde into a product like laminate flooring, it will gradually release vapors into its environment over time. Laminate flooring that releases vapors in excess of federal and state regulations is illegal to sell in the United States. That didn’t stop Lumber Liquidators, though. Earlier this year, a 60 Minutes investigation found that Lumber Liquidators, a home improvement retailer with more than 400 stores in 46 states, was selling dozens of laminate flooring products that exuded formaldehyde vapors that exceeded regulatory limits. Now, many people who have been sickened by formaldehyde vapors after installing Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring in their homes are suing the company. Formaldehyde levels are carefully regulated in consumer products for a good reason. Even at relatively low levels, exposure to formaldehyde through inhalation can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. At higher levels of exposure, it has been known to cause nasopharyngeal cancers and myeloid leukemia. Lumber Liquidators sold many types of laminate flooring under its own store brand. Those products were manufactured by outside companies. Some of them, manufactured in the United States, passed the laboratory safety tests requested by 60 Minutes. But 30 out of 31 Chinese-made laminate flooring samples failed to meet regulatory standards for formaldehyde content. One of them tested positive for formaldehyde at levels more than 13 times the legal limit. The investigation further revealed that Chinese mills producing the laminate flooring for the Lumber Liquidators brand were falsely labeling the goods as being compliant with formaldehyde content regulations. Lumber Liquidators has agreed to stop selling the non-compliant products, but since the 60 Minutes investigation aired in March, the company’s stock has been in freefall amid the departure of several senior executives, including the CEO in May 2015. If you have purchased laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators within the past 10 years and believe that you’ve been sickened by exposure to formaldehyde vapors, the Scranton and Wilkes Barre attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski can help. Call our offices today at 877-353-0529.
Rachel D. Olszewski, an attorney at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., is a dedicated advocate for clients who have suffered unjust harm. Following the legacy of her esteemed family members, Rachel specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense. She is actively involved in professional associations and serves on the board of the Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation. Rachel is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania state courts and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
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