Tyranny of the Flooring in Your Home

A home reno is often something we do because we either love the place where we live or enjoy the neighbor or it’s convenient to school or work. We want it to be updated, look really inviting and have a place everyone can enjoy. For years, perhaps, we’ve saved for that update and now it was time. We sought out the designer, got the budget worked out and struggled through all of it with our designer and contractor and, after two or three months it was completed. Our kingdom now shone like never and we loved it.

Then, we began to hear the stories about the dangers of laminate flooring and wall board from China. People were getting sick, mold was growing in the walls

and there was a very definite danger that toxic fumes were filling our wonderful home — the fumes, of course, were formaldehyde, a neurotoxin, the destroyer of cells and deliverer of disease.

The stuff could either irritate our throat, precipitate asthma attacks or worse. And that worse was the word we’ve come to dread, cancer. Who ever heard of getting cancer from their wonderful, beautiful and shiny new wood laminate floors?

But there was the word we’d failed to give any considering when selecting what our home would be turned into. That word? A simple word, laminate, that indicates something isn’t fully one material like wood. Instead, it’s a veneer of thin wood placed over a mush-like backing or glued material that gives it stability. The reason for laminate? How about that all-too-important budget you struggled

with those few months ago?

Solid wood is expensive and laminate, which we were told looks just like solid wood, is much cheaper. After all, it comes from China where wages are a lot lower. Imagine how low the initial cost of this stuff must be if it can be shipped on huge cargo ships to any port of call, like the United States, and we still get it cheap.

The media stories have been swirling for several years now as homeowners tried to get the companies that either sold or manufactured their wallboard to remove and replace it. But how do you sue someone in China? And who was selling the flooring that now became problematic and under how many names was it sold? Therein lies one answer but leaves the other unanswered.

Lumber Liquidators was the prime target for grievances, but they tried to do their best to manage the brand damage and make things right. They even looked to the Centers for Disease Control to help them in their calculations that the fumes from the laminate were not toxic. The government agency initially agreed and things cooled down.

Today, the fire, left smoldering in the hearts of many, burst into full-blown flame with the latest release from the CDC. They’d miscalculated and the fumes were three times more toxic than they initially thought. Now, it was seen as a very real cancer risk and homeowners were advised to get the laminate removed ASAP.

NPR carried an article today which said, in part, “Last year, the company (Lumber Liquidators) pleaded guilty to charges of making false declarations on import documents about the source of some of its flooring, and it agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Justice Department.”

If anyone needed a bit of irony here, there’s yet another story about the company and it may be related to the wood laminate, no one can say for sure. An item on

CNBC carried it. The CEO of Lumber Liquidators, John Presley, told employees five days ago that he has leukemia, a form of blood cancer. He said, however, that it is very treatable and he is undergoing treatment. If you’d like the original story, here’s the link: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/17/lumber-liquidators-ceo-diagnosed-with-leukemia.html.

Last year, 60 Minutes alerted viewers to the danger of flooring laminate. Once the warning was sounded, how many people took it to heart? Lumber Liquidators has 300 stores in 46 states and the laminate comes under different names, but the danger may be the same for all of the brands. Do enough people watch the TV show to get the vital information? Did the store send out advisories to anyone who bought the laminate? And, if they did, who’s going to pay for all the damage it’s done to people’s lives and finances?

How could the CDC make such a mistake and how could the flooring company continue to sell this dangerous material? You might want to let people know how you feel about it.