Formaldehyde levels in wood flooring

A lot of attention has been brought to formaldehyde levels in flooring over the past couple days. The 60 Minutes report on formaldehyde levels in Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring has certainly brought a lot of attention to the issue. It is discouraging to think that a company could allegedly be misleading customers by not taking the California Air Resource Board’s levels for safe formaldehyde emissions seriously. Whatever the risks of formaldehyde exposure may be, it also leads to more consumers not trusting and believing the promises companies make.

For us, we know that we make promises to our customers (and ultimately the end users of our products) every day. Whether it’s our pricing, our lead times, our freight policy, or our products being safe – we know we must keep those promises to earn our customers’ trust and loyalty. As far as formaldehyde levels and CARB certification goes, we take it seriously and will be completely transparent on all the products we sell. As a distributor, we are somewhat dependent on our partnered manufacturers providing us with trustworthy data. However, we are committing to make available all the testing data for our products. If they haven’t been tested by a reputable lab we will pay to get them independently tested ourselves.

For our products from Real Wood Floors, we can prove that they far exceed the CARB Phase 2 requirements. The chart below shows the levels (in Red) that represent the various standards set by several U.S. and foreign governments. Our emission ratings (in Blue) range from 4 to 12 times less than the strictest US standard. In fact, the product in our lineup with the highest emission rating actually has an emission rating 2-3 times less than what most average homes exhibit on a daily basis. All these tests were done independently by a professional laboratory in the United States.

Real Wood Floors Formaldehyde Chart
Data compiled with the testing results from an independent laboratory. Chart courtesy of Real Wood Floors.

Real Wood Floors has also provided a good overview of what formaldehyde is, how humans are exposed to it, and what levels are considered safe:

Formaldehyde – what is it?

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (CH2O). For most people, their only interaction with formaldehyde was when they dissected a pig in 9th grade biology. If you had that same experience you know that formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature. It has a pungent, distinct odor and can cause burning sensation in the eyes, nose and lungs at high concentrations. Our bodies generate and dispose of formaldehyde through natural metabolic processes every day. In fact the average human has between 2-3 micrograms of formaldehyde per gram of blood. Our bodies turn certain foods into formaldehyde in order to metabolize them.

Are we exposed to formaldehyde on a daily basis?

Formaldehyde and its derivative products are found in many things we come into contact with every day. Not only do our bodies produce levels of it, it can also be found in food, wood, adhesives, cosmetics, pill capsules, crease-resistant fabrics, carpet, facial tissues, paper towels, napkins, paints, foams, insulation, topical creams, medicines, plastics, heart valves, and artificial limbs.

How much is too much?

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry formaldehyde concentration in the outdoor air we breathe everyday is as high as 0.006ppm in rural and suburban areas and as high as 0.02ppm in urban areas. Additionally, the ATSDR notes that the average home has 0.02-0.04ppm in normal indoor air. The ATSDR has set the Minimal Risk Level (MRL) at 0.04ppm. It should be noted that OSHA has set the daily allowable exposure level for people working in industries that require exposure to formaldehyde on a daily basis at 0.75ppm per 8 hours, 18 times higher than the Minimal Risk Level.

We are making the full testing data available on Real Wood Floors products in the form of a PDF report (see below). We will be working to provide more technical data on other products soon. We expect the test reports for Real Wood Floor’s Saltbox collection to be available soon.

Download the Full Formaldehyde Emission Ratings Report

Leave a Reply