According to the California Air Resources Board, formaldehyde emissions can cause a range of serious health problems, including several types of cancer. The California Composite Wood Products Regulation is a law that restricts the amount of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. Composite wood products include things like particleboard, plywood and fiberboard. The regulation also governs products that use those materials which can include anything from cabinets, to picture frames, to flooring, to countertops and more.

The California regulation has been in place for a few years, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a similar national standard should be in place by the end of 2015.



Here are five steps people can take to make sure the flooring and other products in their homes are safe:

1. You can’t tell from the smell People might notice that their newly installed laminate or engineered hardwood floors have a strong chemical odor. The California Environmental Protection Agency notes that “just because a product smells, it doesn’t mean that it is off-gassing formaldehyde.” Flooring products use resins, paints, varnishes and adhesives that can all emit chemical odors, but that does not mean they pose a health threat. Over time, the gaseous emissions from the products decrease. Homeowners can open windows and use fans to help the smells dissipate.

2. Look for labels
Products that comply with the regulations might be labeled as CARB 2 compliant, but that is not necessarily a guarantee. Business Insider noted that the flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators was labeled as compliant when it was not. Consumers can look for products labeled as no-added formaldehyde (NAF) or ultra-low emitting formaldehyde-based resins (ULEF). But regulations do not require manufacturers to specify those designations.

3. Cheaper might not be better
The factories that produced the tainted flooring from Lumber Liquidators were in China, a country with a reputation for cutting environmental and consumer safety corners. The products in question were on the low end of the price scale. Instead of making decisions based solely on cost, consumers probably should take into consideration factors such as manufacturing origin, consumer ratings, reputation of the retailer, etc.

4. Have it tested
Homeowners worried about the level of formaldehyde emissions in their homes can purchase test kits to verify exposure levels. The kits consist of a disc or badge that can be placed in a room or even worn on clothing. After 24 to 48 hours, the disc is sent to a lab that measures the formaldehyde level and reports the findings to the homeowner. An online search for formaldehyde testing kits will turn up numerous suppliers.

5. Buy from someone you trust
Instead of buying flooring from a box store or discount chain, consumers might want to consider purchasing from a local supplier that gets products directly from manufacturers. Local retailers survive by providing a higher level of customer service and better quality materials. A local business owner who specializes in flooring products is likely to know far more about them than a sales clerk at a box store, and he has a strong incentive to stand behind his products.