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November 13, 2013 / Shehnaz M. Bhujwala

Cutting Consumer Safety For Higher Stock Prices: Lumber Liquidators Sells Toxic Flooring

California homeowners take caution: your beautiful new hardwood or laminate floor may be harmful to you and your family’s health. Recent concerning reports allege that Lumber Liquidators, one of the county’s largest sellers and suppliers of hardwood and laminate flooring may be compromising consumer safety for bottom-line earnings. The company has been outselling competitors with radical price cuts advertising the most “affordable” flooring on the market. The tactic worked. Lumber Liquidators stock value soared into the stratosphere in just one year, trading today at 50 times its trading price in 2012. (See, seekingalpha.com.)

But all too often, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Lumber Liquidators is now under investigation by consumer advocacy groups for selling hardwood floors with illegal levels of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a toxic substance used in various types of manufacturing. A gas at room temperature, formaldehyde produces a characteristic pungent odor, is irritating to the eyes, and according to the U.S. Toxicology Program it is a significant human health concern and a “(known) human carcinogen.”

Reports indicate that some of the company’s most popular flooring, including the “Mayflower” line, tested positive for formaldehyde levels as high as 0.17 ppm (parts per million), over three times the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). (See, seekingalpha.com.) Prior to the recent EPA regulations, California law set the standard for both the EPA guidelines and national business practices. (See, 17 CCCR §§ 93120-93120.12, and 77 Fed. Reg. 34,796, and 77 Fed. Reg. 34,820 (June 10, 2013).) In California, it is illegal to sell hardwood flooring containing over 0.05 ppm.

Lumber Liquidators has released a formal statement in the wake of the allegations of dangerous levels of formaldehyde in their products, claiming, “”We stand by our products and take very seriously any questions or concerns about our quality. Our comprehensive quality control system is designed to ensure Lumber Liquidators’ customers receive the best and safest flooring possible. This is a promise we guarantee.” The company’s website also boasts full compliance with emissions laws, claiming that its suppliers “manufacture their products in accordance with the European standard which has stricter guidelines than the California” standard.

Such claims are hard to reconcile with the myriad of consumer complaints claiming they bought defective and obnoxious smelling flooring from lumber liquidators. (See, e.g., consumeraffairs.com) For example, Bethany from New York disclosed, “I noticed my eyes burning whenever I was in the room where the flooring had been placed… (Lumber Liquidators) needs to issue a recall but in the meantime no one will talk to me.”

California and federal consumer protection laws make it illegal for companies to misrepresent the quality of their goods in order to make a sale. If you or someone you know has purchased flooring from Lumber Liquidators within the past two years, your legal rights may have been violated. You are urged to contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a free and confidential consultation.

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