Formaldehyde is a commonly used chemical compound that’s used in a number of industries for various purposes — including in floors made in China.
From the manufacturing of building materials like pressed wood products and cigarette smoke to fuel-burning appliances, beauty products and the embalming of human remains, formaldehyde exists in various environments – possibly even inside your home.
Formaldehyde can enter indoor air in two ways:
- From emissions arising from construction materials and household products: off-gassing;
- From burning materials: combustion.
And, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), very high levels of exposure increase the risk of developing cancer and leukemia.
While you may think you’re safe from this dangerous chemical, the problem could be swept under the rug for now– quite literally. Yes, your flooring may have formaldehyde.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) says that most laminate and engineered-wood flooring labeled as compliant with the state’s formaldehyde limits meets those standards.
However, because government regulations in overseas countries differ from those in North America, standards for safe and quality flooring are not the same. Those purchasing overseas flooring cannot be guaranteed the product has not been chemically treated or that it is free of contaminants that can be harmful to one’s health.
That’s why it’s up to you, the consumer, to make sure you’re purchasing materials free of this dangerous chemical compound, or at least products that are compliant to acceptable levels, set out by government regulations.
Here’s what you should know about floors from China, formaldehyde and how to protect your family from it.
The Proof is in the TestingTable of Contents [show]
So, back to our original question. Do floors from China really have formaldehyde or is it just big media hype?
Testing done by the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association found high levels of formaldehyde in flooring that was made in China and sold in North America. The chemical is a known cancer-causing agent, and is used as glue when manufacturing laminate and engineered wood floors.
Also, in recent news, the U.S. company Lumber Liquidators was investigated and exposed for selling laminate flooring from China that failed to meet health and safety standards.
“We sent the samples for testing at two certified labs. It turns out of the 31 samples of Chinese- made laminate flooring, only one was compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were of 13X the California limit. Both labs told us they had never seen formaldehyde levels that high.”
And if that’s not enough to convince you, the Global Community Monitor found that formaldehyde emissions From Chinese-made flooring Far Exceed Emissions From Products Made in the U.S. or Europe.
“We tested 25 such samples, representing 11 different Lumber Liquidators products. The average emission level of the U.S. samples is shown as 1.0x, with samples ranging from 70 percent of that level to 1.3 times that level. In contrast, Lumber Liquidators laminate products produced in China emitted average exposures over three times those of the U.S. products, ranging from almost twice to more than five times the U.S. average. Even the lowest-emitting Chinese sample had formaldehyde emissions nearly 50% higher than the worst sample produced in the U.S. or Europe.”
Why is this Dangerous Chemical Compound Present?Some of the unsafe manufacturing practises used in overseas countries allow a larger amount of goods to be produced at a lower cost, making them more desirable – or attainable – to some consumers.
Indoor and Outdoor Exposure to FormaldehydeThere are many products that contain formaldehyde, which can release formaldehyde gas into the air. Here’s a list of where this dangerous chemical tends to linger. ~ Courtesy of the Canadian Cancer Society.
- Used in building and construction materials
- Found in furniture and cabinets made from pressed-wood products (such as particleboard, plywood, medium-density fibreboard) and glues and adhesives used to make these products
- Used in household products such as certain paints, varnishes and floor finishes
- Found in permanent press sheets, drapes and clothing
- A by-product from burning certain substances
- Cigarette smoke
- Unvented fuel-burning appliances such as gas or wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters
- Forest fires and vehicle exhaust
What Can I Do To Protect My Family from Formaldehyde?Before installing any flooring in your home, always ask your contractor or retailer whether their product meets applicable laws. Specifically, you can ask them to demonstrate that their product is free of formaldehyde, or at least within governmental or industry guidelines.
And don’t be afraid to ask to see the Material Safety Data Sheet or a copy of the chemical formulation for the flooring and make sure the words “urea formaldehyde” does not appear. Products with no urea formaldehyde are labelled “E0”. However very few products are actually labelled as such. Generally speaking, the acceptable rating is E1. However, as we’ve talked about considerably in the past, products from China that are labelled E1 may not actually be worthy of that rating. The reasons being corruption and lack of government oversight.