High levels of formaldehyde found in Chinese-made
floors sold in North America Global News
Chinese-made flooring sold in North America has high levels of formaldehyde – a known carcinogen – according to tests done by the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association.
“We went into a retail store and grabbed a sample, tested it and six out of eight flunked,” says Kip Howlett, President of the HPVA, an industry association that represents some Canadian and American flooring manufacturers.
When Howlett started testing these floors five years ago, the levels of formaldehyde were so high, he says some were two to three times over the line.
“It was like emissions that we used to see 30 years ago,” he says.
Too much formaldehyde can cause upper throat and nasal cancers as well as leukemia, according to the National Academies of Science.
The U.S. state of California has tough labelling and emission rules to control formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products including floors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon be putting out proposed rules that aim to regulate this chemical nationally.
READ MORE: Think that new hardwood floor is made in Canada? Think again
In Canada, there are no similar set of rules. Health Canada, the government agency that regulates formaldehyde, told 16×9 that since 1986 only a voluntary agreement exists between government and industry to limit formaldehyde in wood products. That limit is based on levels set almost thirty years ago, levels that are higher than rules in some U.S. jurisdictions and the European Union.
Canada needs to get stronger rules, says Howlett. “The rules are there to protect people, they’re there to protect the consumer.”
Formaldehyde is used as a cheap glue in the making of laminate and engineered wood floors.
“If you jack up the amount of resin, it allows you to basically take your production rate on your press and increase it by 50 per cent,” Howlett says. “So instead of making a million panels you’ll make a million and a half panels.”
Sascha Von Bismarck works for the Environmental Investigation Agency, an environmental group that’s spent years investigating Chinese wood factories.
“So when we’re looking at any piece of wood that’s glued together, we will go through that section of the factory where the big glue vat is, and we’ll have some initial discussions about how does this process work,”Bismark says. “You immediately then get told about how one can cut corners.”
In July 2014 a lawsuit filed in California against Lumber Liquidators, the biggest flooring retailer in the U.S., claimed that some of the company’s Chinese-made laminate floors had unacceptable levels of formaldehyde. The lawsuit says there were insufficient warning labels on these products.
According to court documents, plaintiffs tested Chinese-made floors which emitted formaldehyde at far higher rates than those manufactured in Europe or North America – on average, Chinese products emitted at 350 per cent the rate of European/North American products.
Lumber Liquidators has denied the allegations and said its flooring “meets relevant environmental standards and undergoes rigorous, independent, third-party testing, including those pertaining to formaldehyde emissions.” The levels of formaldehyde are too low to trigger the need for warning labels under Proposition 65, the relevant California law but some warnings are provided anyways.
Laminate flooring refers to a flooring technique, which is traditionally available in large square tiles and planks for easy installation process. These pieces of tiles can be sliced fit in any irregular shaped areas on the floor. Generally, laminate floats over a sub-floor on a layer of plastic or foam. This helps in insulating against sound, temperature as well as moisture penetration. According to the data by the sales manufacturers of laminating flooring in the United States, there was an increase of 5% in volume from the previous year to 957.5 million square feet however the overall United States market value of the same category decreased by 2.2% to $880.9 million. This is as per the study conducted by Catalina Research.
Benefits of laminate flooring
There are several benefits associated with laminate flooring. Some of the benefits include the following:
Maintenance: Laminates are dependable and durable. They can endure high traffic regions without denting or dulling. Usually, they have a high resistance to stains, impacts, scratches and day-to-day use since the product has a durable construction. Many laminates can currently wear and fading. As a result, it makes flooring easier to manage since the floor can be cleaned using a simple cleaning technique.
Cost: Compared to hardwood flooring, laminate is relatively cheap. Both of the major manufacturers of laminates charge reasonable prices, thus makes it easier to get new flooring on a small budget.
Molding: Majority of laminate designs similar molding to make it easier to design your room. Using other materials to design your room can either be impossible or difficult to have a matching mold. This makes it hard to make decisions on the floor designs. There are a variety of laminate flooring designs, which homeowners can select from.
Common mistakes when buying or installing laminate flooring
When buying or installing laminate flooring, there are some common mistakes that people make. Some of the common mistakes with laminate flooring that people make include:
Selecting poor quality: Although laminate floors are usually inexpensive, there are various types and not all of them have the same quality. It would be appropriate to enquire from a genuine contractor about which brands are better. Besides, you can enquire from neighbors who have also used laminate flooring so that you can get first-hand information on how it may appear in your own home. It would also be appropriate to know that several earlier designs were produced using melamine resin that produced formaldehyde fumes after they had been installed. However, even though higher quality materials are costly, they are durable, safer and save you more cash within the long run.
Not preparing the subfloor: Prior to installation, the subfloor needs to be prepared. It should be undamaged, flat and clean. It is a general sense that any installation on a damaged subfloor may just destroy the floor resulting into costly replacements or repairs in the future.
Tapping on the planks: Laminate floors of the most current years are designed to fit each other perfectly. Hence, unless the manufacturer instructs you, then there is no need to tap on the planks since it might just destroy the locking system which results in improperly locked planks. In case it occurs, then your floor may begin to buckle after just some few weeks.