Can imported laminate wood floors make you sick?
The warm luster of laminate wood flooring can give your home or office an inviting and natural look. But, according to recent press reports, some laminates imported from China produce potentially hazardous emissions of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
Formaldehyde is a naturally-occurring substance that’s used in the manufacture of pressed woods, glue and preservatives. It’s glue that holds together the thin laminated layers of wood flooring. Formaldehyde can leach from products in a gaseous form, and be inhaled. The National Cancer Institute says that high levels of formaldehyde may cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, and may cause some types of cancers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on a rulemaking, which it projects it will complete later this year, to address formaldehyde emissions from wood products. In the meantime, you can look at the standards for formaldehyde set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
To reduce formaldehyde in your home or workplace, follow steps from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. You also can find information about formaldehyde exposure at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If you’re in the market for pressed-wood products, the EPA says:
- Consider buying composite wood products certified as compliant with the American National Standards Institute and the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association: ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 (for hardwood plywood), ANSI A208.1-2009 (for particleboard), or ANSI A208.2-2009 (for medium-density fiberboard). These standards include limits on formaldehyde emissions.
- Consider buying composite wood products that are certified as compliant with CARB’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products.