Laminate Flooring With High Formaldehyde Levels Causes Problems for Tampa Woman

Laying ceramic floor tiles - man hands closeup
Laminate flooring is usually a common and cost-effective option for homeowners looking to make some changes around the house. However, following news that several Chinese factories manufactured products containing high levels of formaldehyde, many people are growing hesitant. Now, the experience of a California woman suggests that the responses of certain flooring retailers might only contribute to these problems.Jacquie Shabel originally chose laminate wood flooring to renovate her Tampa, FL rental home. However, after purchasing 59 boxes of the product from Lumber Liquidators in February, she says she almost immediately reconsidered: as soon as it was delivered, the flooring smelled horrible, toxic. With her 5-year-old son Rhys and their three dogs staying at the home while construction was underway, Shabel says she was hesitant to move forward with her project. However, when she contacted the Lutz, FL store where she purchased the laminate flooring, they reportedly assured her that the smell would die down eventually. As a result, Shabel had the product installed.

But while the new flooring looked beautiful, Shabel says the smell never disappeared. Instead, it was so overwhelming that she took her family to a hotel for a few days. Despite spending $3,000 to purchase and install the floors, Shabel eventually hired a demolition crew to remove every plank to return it to Lumber Liquidators. She claims a store representative agreed to give her a refund, but that she would have to speak to the corporate office about her installation and demolition expenses. However, when Shabel arrived at the store with the wood, she says the manager refused to refund her money because the wood was no longer in the boxes she had purchased it in. The corporate office also refused to issue her a refund.

Numerous homeowners across the country are currently facing similar situations after a recent 60 Minutes report revealed that some Chinese companies are producing laminate floors that may be dangerous. After going undercover at three such factories, the report claimed that the glue used to bind the wood particles in the core of the laminated boards contained excessive levels of the cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde. As many as 30 of 31 boxes of the product were labeled compliant when they were not.

For its part, Lumber Liquidators objects to the testing performed by 60 Minutes, stating that it does its own testing and stands by the safety of its products. However, the company is now offering free air quality testing and says they will replace the flooring if necessary. Unfortunately, this might not be enough for many homeowners, who may now begin installing vinyl flooring, hardwood flooring, carpeting or tile. At the very least, they will likely prefer to turn to a different retailer.

A class action lawsuit has been filed in California and another is in the works in Florida at the Knopf Bigger law firm. Partner Andrew Knopf says the latter case is still open to affected consumers, but cannot compensate plaintiffs for any physical injuries or illnesses. He also reminded consumers that class action lawsuits take time, meaning that any demolition projects or health treatments should proceed immediately rather than waiting for a legal victory.

Meanwhile, Shabel will not be participating in the class action lawsuit. Instead, she has hired a crew to install new tile to complete the renovations she began over a month ago. A representative from Lumber Liquidators told her local TampaNews 10 that they were looking into her complaint.

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