Formaldehyde in Flooring

Laminate flooring is less expensive than solid wood, but there have been concerns that it emits formaldehyde. So Consumer Reports bought a variety of wood-based flooring products and ran lab tests over the past year.

It was a small study, but Consumer Reports did find that laminate and engineered wood had consistently higher levels of formaldehyde emissions compared with prefinished solid-wood samples that were tested.

If you’re putting in new flooring, Consumer Reports says prefinished solid-wood flooring is a better choice for reducing formaldehyde exposure. If you’ve had laminate or engineered-wood flooring for several years, there’s less cause for concern because formaldehyde is a volatile chemical that will dissipate over time.

The problem is that lots of products can emit formaldehyde, especially when they’re new. Things like permanent-press fabric, upholstery, plywood, particleboard, paints, and cigarettes all can emit formaldehyde.

To lower formaldehyde levels, open windows to let in fresh air, wash permanent-press clothing and curtains before using them, choose wood furniture without formaldehyde-containing glues, and ban indoor smoking. But forget about using an air purifier. It probably won’t lower formaldehyde levels. Nor will putting a rug over your floor.

On July 27, 2016, the EPA finalized a new rule to reduce exposure to formaldehyde vapors from certain wood products. Starting next year, wood products that comply with the new federal standards will be labeled, making it easier for consumers to make informed choices.

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