On laminated wood flooring products, science shows low risk from formaldehyde exposure

Recent media stories questioning the safety of laminated wood products shipped into the United States from China have caused concerns among homeowners with laminate wood flooring in their homes. But the results of a recent review by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should put those concerns to rest. The CPSC reports that out of 17,000 air samples recently taken in households with foreign-made laminated flooring, none of the samples “tested above the remediation guideline.” And a separate evaluation of formaldehyde levels in laminate flooring made in China found that there was negligible risk to human health when compared to a conservative safe exposure level developed by the state of California.[1] Additionally, U.S.-based companies have demonstrated a commitment to producing laminate flooring that meets the highest standards in existence.

Here are some important facts to keep in mind about formaldehyde emissions and laminate wood flooring:

  • Regulations are in place in the U.S. to help ensure the safety of all composite wood products, including laminate flooring. With the industry’s support, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, signed into law in 2010, established a framework for the regulation of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products at the national level. The California Air Resources Board developed the world’s most stringent product emissions testing and certification standard for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products seven years ago. In July 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulation that applies these same emission standards nationally. Additionally, current mandatory government regulations set standards to protect human health and the environment. These requirements allow for the safe production, storage, handling and use of formaldehyde. So there should be adequate assurance about the safety of formaldehyde products when used in accordance with existing government regulations and industry stewardship. The science on formaldehyde is robust and well characterized. These facts should provide some helpful context for the current misleading stories about formaldehyde emissions from laminate wood flooring.
  • Industry has a long history of voluntarily reducing formaldehyde emissions. Emissions from formaldehyde-based resins have been declining for more than 25 years. Industry efforts have led to the development of a wide variety of resin technologies to meet customer performance requirements, including ultra-low emitting formaldehyde resins that are capable of reducing potential emissions to remarkably low levels. Existing and emerging formaldehyde-based resin technologies, coupled with responsible panel manufacturing processes, will continue to deliver composite panel products that can be used safely and meet the toughest emissions standards in the world.
  • Typical indoor air levels are well below established health-protective thresholds. Average indoor exposures to formaldehyde range between 16 parts per billion and 32 parts per billion.[2] In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) set a safe exposure level at 80 parts per billion, which is a conservative value and health-protective. Notably, the WHO value was re-evaluated in 2016 and still found to be health protective.[3]

The science on formaldehyde is robust and well characterized. These facts should provide some helpful context for the current misleading stories about formaldehyde emissions from laminate wood flooring.


[1] Poster #2661, title: Evaluating the Proposition 65 Health Significance of Formaldehyde Exposures from Chinese Manufactured Laminate Flooring. Presented at the 2016 Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting. Abstract Weblink: http://www.toxicology.org/pubs/docs/Tox/2016Tox.pdf

[2] Salthammer, T., Mentese, S. and Marutzky, R., 2010. “Formaldehyde in the indoor environment.” Chemical Reviews, 110(4), pp.2536-2572.

[3] Nielsen, Gunnar Damgård, Søren Thor Larsen, and Peder Wolkoff. “Re-evaluation of the WHO (2010) formaldehyde indoor air quality guideline for cancer risk assessment.” Archives of toxicology (2016): 1-27.

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