Thousands of consumers are perplexed about with to do with their Lumber Liquidators laminate floors. You know the ones that were featured on a 60 Minutes expose? That show 10 days ago has brought a lot of heat but less light to the matter.
Being a journalist, I was able to track exactly what Anderson Cooper and the CBS news crew were doing: replicating the research and reports that had been done over the past two years by investment analysts and some environmental groups, then "break" the story.
CBS certainly did give it prominence. But if you work in the wood industry, you have to have some sympathy for Lumber Liquidators.
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These are the guys that literally sell Americans on the idea that a wood floor is preferable to carpet or tile. And they have done so to the tune of $1 billion in annual sales.
Now the public at large is hearing the fearful exchange over formaldehyde content in the glues used in Chinese factories to make the laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators. One big issue is that the flooring was labeled as meeting California Air Resources Board standards, which mandates no added formaldehyde in interior residental paneling. (It is the only state where that rule is currently in effect, though similar restrictions will become a national policy soon.)
Flooring companies says they are being bombarded with calls from worried consumers. Heck, I just put in a floor from Lumber Liquidators (it's solid wood, though, made of Ash from the U.S.)
So what should consumers throughout the country: tear them up? Re-coat them? Reporters Aaron Kessler and Rachel Abrams did a great job in yesterday's New York Times, talking to EPA, OSHA, and the California Air Resources Board.
The best approach: if the floor is more than two years old, it has already released most of the formaldehyde gas it would have contained. If it is a newer installation, open the windows frequently so the gas can escape. An indoor air testing specialist, David preemptivelyeosyntec, told the reporters, "This is not a 'Your hair's on fire emergency.'"
For Lumber Liquidators, which gives its side of the story this morning at 10 a.m. Eastern time, the ramifications are being strongly felt and could be ruinous. Its stock price has plummeted, and its reputation is injured. The U.S. Senate plans to take up the matter so the narrative will continue to hurt the business. And the wave of class action lawsuits is now begun.
Since we have been following the story for two years, so has Lumber Liquidators. Doubtless they should have moved preemtively to avoid this calamitous situation. But in the end, they are the biggest players in the business, and they are the biggest advocates for wood flooring products. So I, for one, am going to stay on their side.
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