CDC Issues Statement on Errors in its Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring Report
February 29, 2016 •
On Feb. 18, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted on its website a statement regarding an error in its Feb.10-released report about the possible health effects from exposure to formaldehyde emitted from select laminate flooring samples. CDC’s statement said that “health risks of people who have the laminate flooring are being revised to reflect greater exposure to formaldehyde, which could cause eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone. The estimated risk of cancer associated with exposure to the flooring increased.”
CDC said that on Feb. 13, it and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) were notified of an error in the original report, “Possible Health Implications from Exposure to Formaldehyde Emitted from Laminate Flooring Samples Tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
The report was the result of a March 1, 2015, 60 Minutes report that Lumber Liquidators®, was selling a Chinese-produced laminate wood flooring product that released high levels of formaldehyde. 60 Minutes tested formaldehyde levels in 31 boxes of commercially available laminate flooring products purchased from Lumber Liquidator® stores in five states (Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Virginia). 60 Minutes reported that some test results were higher than the California Air Resources Board (CARB) emission standards. Because of concerns raised by the 60 Minutes report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted an in-depth test of laminate flooring samples manufactured in China during 2012-2014 that were sold at Lumber Liquidators® stores. CPSC subsequently requested that CDC/ATSDR evaluate the test results for possible health effects.
According to the CDC statement, the CDC/ATSDR indoor air model used an incorrect value for ceiling height. As a result, the health risks were calculated using airborne concentration estimates about three times lower than they should have been. The original report found:
- Exposure to the low end of the modeled levels of formaldehyde in indoor air could cause increased frequency of asthma symptoms and other respiratory issues for people with asthma and COPD;
- Exposure to the higher-end levels could result in eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone; and
- Low risk of cancer (2-9 cases per 100,000 people).
After correcting the measurement in the model, CDC/ATSDR is revising the possible health effects. The final results are not yet available, but are estimated to be closer to these:
- Exposure to the range of modeled levels of formaldehyde in indoor air could cause increased symptoms and other respiratory issues for people with asthma and COPD;
- Exposure to the lowest modeled levels of formaldehyde could result in eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone; and
- The estimated risk of cancer is 6-30 cases per 100,000 people. Because of the very conservative (health protective) nature of the models used in this analysis, the calculated risk is likely lower than our modeled estimate.
CDC said that its recommendations will likely remain the same: “we strongly stress taking steps to reduce exposures, which should alleviate respiratory and eye, nose and throat irritation. These steps should also reduce the cancer risk.”
CDC/ATSDR is now conducting a quality review of the indoor air model and the revised results. The new draft report will be reviewed by CPSC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In addition to the possibility that CPSC may take further action, EPA will be releasing a composite wood rulemaking, similar to the CARB composite wood rule that regulates the formaldehyde emissions from composite wood.
Contact ACA’s David Darling for more information.