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.
There are no federal limits for formaldehyde, but California does set limits on how much formaldehyde can be emitted by flooring and other pressed-wood products. Consumer Reports believes even California’s levels are not low enough.
In June, Lumber Liquidators reached a settlement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and agreed to continue testing some of its laminate floors free of charge. You can get more information at 800-366-4204.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.