Everyone makes mistakes, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Earlier this month the CDC, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released the results of an analysis of flooring from Lumber Liquidators and said the cancer risk from the formaldehyde in the laminate flooring was low.
Now, the CDC says there was an error in the February 10 report.
“Health risks of people who have the laminate flooring are being revised to reflect greater exposure to formaldehyde, which could cause eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone,” the CDC said in a revised statement. “The estimated risk of cancer associated with exposure to the flooring increased.”
Miscalculated ceiling height
The error reportedly occurred because the CDC/ATSDR indoor air model used an incorrect value for ceiling height. As a result, the CDC says health risks were calculated using airborne concentration estimates about three times lower than they should have been.
Originally, the government said the exposure might cause eye, nose, and throat irritation for anyone with high levels of exposure. But it said the cancer risk was low, with about two to nine cases per 100,000 people.
After the corrections, the CDC and ATSDR say the cancer risk has been revised upward, to between six and 30 cases per 100,000 people.
“Because of the very conservative nature of the models used in this analysis, the calculated risk is likely lower than our modeled estimate,” the CDC statement concluded.
Despite the correction, the CDC said its recommendations would likely not change. The agency strongly recommends taking steps to reduce exposures, which should alleviate respiratory, eye, nose, and throat irritation. It also said reducing exposure should also reduce the cancer risk.
What to do
In its original report, the CDC suggested consumers could reduce exposure to formaldehyde by opening windows for a few minutes each day to bring in fresh air. It said the same could be accomplished by installing or using exhaust fans.
Other measures included keeping room temperatures as low as comfortable, not smoking, since tobacco smoke contains formaldehyde, and being careful not to introduce additional sources of the chemical into the environment.
Lumber Liquidators has been dealing with the issue of formaldehyde in some of its flooring products after a CBS 60 Minutes broadcast aired the allegations almost a year ago.
The company initially denied the charges aired in the report. The company's founder and chairman, Tom Sullivan, said at the time the allegations were a plot to drive down the firm's stock price and insisted Lumber Liquidators products are "100% safe."