Laminate flooring is made by pressing layers of wood or plastics together and bonding them with resin. This type of flooring is commonly used in homes as a long-lasting substitute for real wood floors. Consumers should be aware of the dangers of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used to make laminate flooring. These floors have the potential to harm human health if their VOC components break down and enter the air in gaseous form.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, some laminate wood floors contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is a VOC. Consumers should also be aware that medium-pressed woods are known to emit the highest level of formaldehyde, says the CDC. Other harmful emissions may also originate from wood products containing phenol-formaldehyde resins.
Formaldehyde emissions can cause a variety of symptoms when inhaled in the household. The CDC says these symptoms include watery eyes, burning in the eyes, nose and throat, nausea, cough, tightness of the chest, wheezing, skin rashes and allergic reactions. Formaldehyde also causes cancer in animals and may lead to cancers in people.
A hot or humid environment inside the home may increase the potential for formaldehyde emissions in a home, says the CDC. Laminate flooring should be purchased with a label or stamp from the American National Standards Institute. This label indicates that a manufacturer has only used an amount of formaldehyde-containing resin lower than the level that would harm consumers. Look for a level of formaldehyde expressed in parts per million (ppm).
There are other instances where consumers may be exposed to formaldehyde. Factory workers may be exposed while working in wood product factories. Construction workers may be exposed while installing laminate flooring. Consumers may be exposed when they move into a new home or when they return home following an installation of laminate floors.
Consumers also have to be careful when cleaning up a home after a storm. Laminate floors are prone to flood damage. A home's laminate floors and other surfaces must be dried out--up to several months--before cleanup may begin. In addition, a home must be aired out before residents or professionals return to clean up damaged laminate floors.