Formaldehyde in Flooring

Laminate FlooringFormaldehyde in wood flooring has been a huge topic as of late. The TV program 60 Minutes had reported that flooring superstore Lumber Liquidators has been producing and selling wood flooring advertised as being compliant with Phase 2 of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulation “California 93120 Compliant for Formaldehyde” when in fact the program has found that it is not compliant. In order to comply with CARB Phase 2, wood flooring made with MDF (medium-density fiberboard) needs to have under 0.11 ppm of formaldehyde emissions. Formaldehyde is used in the glues which hold the fiberboard “core” of laminate flooring together.

60 Minutes reported that only 1 out of 31 samples of Lumber Liquidators’ flooring from 5 states was CARB Phase 2 compliant (Click here to download raw data). The report also referenced another independent study of laminate flooring purchased from Lumber Liquidators in California.  Lumber Liquidators’ American made flooring was compliant, but their Chinese made products were not. Some samples were over 20x the limit!

How many homes have Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring? While there are no official numbers, the 60 Minutes report estimated that there are 10,000+ in California, and potentially 100,000+ in the USA!

On a federal level, the EPA is still working on formaldehyde regulations.  In 2010, the federal government enacted the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act. The EPA was supposed to have its final rule in place by January 1, 2013, but now the best guess is September 2015. It is expected that this federal regulation will mirror the CARB Phase 2 standard. Many people are calling for immediate action.

Formaldehyde can come from other sources as well. It can be found in paints, insulation, paper products, and cigarette smoke. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause symptoms such as nosebleeds, cough, itchy eyes, and sore throat. People with asthma, bronchitis, or are pregnant can be more at risk to having effects from formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, particularly for causing cancer of the nose and throat.

Do you have questions about formaldehyde?  Post a question in the comments section and I’ll try to respond quickly.

If you live in the Chicago area and would like for my company to test formaldehyde in your home, please visit: Formaldehyde Testing Chicago.


By Ian Cull

I'm I.A.N. the Indoor Air Nerd. I'm a speaker and consultant on indoor air quality issues. To learn more about me, click "about" at the top of this page.

20 replies on “Formaldehyde in Flooring”


I purchased laminate flooring in March of 2012. The one I purchased is on the list for high levels of Formaldehyde. My question is, since my purchase I have not installed them yet, I have 650sq feet of flooring still in the packaging. Do you think the formaldehyde was able to dissipate while still in the packaging?

Thanks, Sharon

Sharon, I understand that Lumber Liquidators is offering a free formaldehyde test. That would be a more definitive way of testing it.

What kind of packaging does it have?

Thin plastic wrap. The local store didn’t mention free testing, they just told me I shouldn’t believe everything I see on TV and that there was an agenda by the accusers. Gave me a phone number to call. No help what so ever.

Hi Ian! First, thank you for this blog. I have found so much information, and you’ve answered so many of my questions already! Second, my questions! #1 I’m newly pregnant, and just in time for a major major kitchen renovation. Once the new cabinets are in (made of plywood) and countertops set (I’m not sure what type of glue HomeDepot will use), how long should I wait before I sleep in the home? I’m concerned about the formaldehyde AND the paint finish on the cabinets; likely latex. I will likely be 3-4 months pregnant, and don’t want to smell all those fumes and breathe in the new formaldehyde cabinets! And #2, my husband just painted a very large bookshelf with oil based paints. I’m livid. How long will it take the bookshelves to offgas? Meaning, how long until it is safe for me to be near them? The bookshelves are currently curing, and we are planning to use AFM Transitional Primer and then Ecolauq for 2 coats of paint to try and seal in the gasses.

Your blog has made me SO INTERESTED in VOCs and off gassing.

Thank you!



There are so many factors that it is hard to say exactly. I have been monitoring a house that did a deep renovation and I’m still seeing elevated VOCs 4 months later. Perhaps other projects wouldn’t take so long. The best strategy is to use low VOC products and ventilate a lot. Let things air out outside before bringing them in, keep windows open after painting or bringing things in. Without testing, I can’t provide you a specific date for when things will go back to normal.

Thanks for you kind comments about the blog.

Do you think that the Lumber Liquidators’test can be trusted? I have their Golden Teak Acadia made in China with the “California 93120 Phase 2 Compliant” indicated. But since 60 Minutes showed this may not be true, can I rely on their test?

i have 14 packages from lumber liquidators…. have not put them down….. i did put them down in my two bathrooms the peel and stick has the glue on the bottom and it is black. I am the worst housekeeper i ave to keep everything clean year around….they sayin to stack the flooring 6 boxes high and where you are going to put them down…….now that i have more info i am going to wait and put them in a spare room……roll out tile flooring ….is it safe…they sell it a ollies bargain market by the roll do it yourself..if you can find a large enough roll at a sale price…the glue really has took is it in the wood or the glue…my floors stay cold in the winter and the wood is cool in the summer….i only used 3 boxes less some….

I’ve been looking at engineered wood floors because my living level, LR & DR are on a concrete slab. I can’t seem to find any quality product. SHAW is the only US made brand I have found and selections are limited. And the hardness ratings are not great. Could the poster expand more on the AC ratings.
I have always thought laminates have their place. They seem much sturdier for a kids room then wood that scratches. I don’t hear sound issues and the feel is a lot more comfortable then tile.

Hello, purchased a China Cabinet from, now i find a label on the back that states “Formaldehyde Phase 2 on a Hillsdale Funtiure LLC. date of Sept.2016. What does this mean??? Already have allergies to many many made chemicals. Does this China Cabinet pose a threat to our health? Kim

I purchased a dining room table that has the California 93120 label on it. If my room gets above 73 degrees, is there a Concern? I haven’t put the furniture together yet so wondering if I should return it.

The laminate flooring at HomeDepot that I like, has Phase 2 Formaldehyde warning on the box. Is it safe to install in bedrooms.

What that signifies is that it meets formaldehyde standards (assuming it wasnt fraudulently stamped on the box). Every flooring has an impact on indoor air quality.

We are in the market for a condo. Many have been painted and/or more deeply renovated in the immediate or more distant past. Before making an offer, we would like to do a quick check on the TVOC level in the condos that we like. We would be looking for a TVOC reading of 1 ppm or less. Question: are there a few good-quality, moderate-cost, easy-to-use, handheld TVOC monitors that come to mind?

I’m not aware of any low or moderate cost TVOC sensors. The most reliable ones use a photoionization detector (PIDs) sensor. HMOS and other cheap sensors are not reliable enough in my opinion. Cheaper sensors could let you know about an increase or decrease in VOCs, but would not be reliable for an actual VOC measurement. You could consider a low-cost laboratory-based test which would be a better use of funds for your scenario in my opinion. Companies such as Home Air Check may be a good starting point.

If laminate flooring throughout home is 4 years old (assuming no symptoms, I don’t know yet since it’s a potential) would you worry about it ?

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