Media Release

November 2, 2015

Contacts: Community Health Watch (Margie Strite); Global Community Monitor (Bart Lounsbury); ATA Law Group (Matthew Maclear at 415-568-5200)

Federal Court Approves Clean Water Act and Proposition 65 Discharge Case

(Chester, CA)  A Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water and Toxics Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) lawsuit, filed by Community Health Watch (CHW) and Global Community Monitor (CGM) against Collins Pine Company, was approved by Hon. Judge Troy L. Nunley in the federal Eastern District Court of California.   Collins Pine Company operates a sawmill and biomass-fired boiler in Chester, CA, a small community of approximately 2,000 residents in the northern Sierra Nevada’s. The suit was filed by Aqua Terra Aeris (ATA) Law Group on behalf of the local group, Community Health Watch, and international toxics watchdog, Global Community Monitor.

The Parties, through collaboration and innovative problem-solving, agreed to resolve this case by having Collins Pine Company shift from a wet to a dry boiler air pollution control device.  This court-approved settlement largely eliminates the possibility of problematic discharges going forward.  In addition to the substantial mitigation measures resulting in cleaner emissions and discharges, Collins Pine Company agreed to fund local environmentally-beneficial projects through the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, perform monitoring and reporting on compliance, in addition to covering costs, fees and significant civil penalties.

“We see tremendous benefits to the community of Chester and its environment resulting from this settlement.”  Margie Strite, Co-Executive Director of CHW.

CHW is an unincorporated citizen group located in Chester, California. The mission and focus of CHW is to protect the combined social, health, environmental and cultural conditions that influence individuals and the community in the Chester and Lake Almanor area of Plumas County, California

Global Community Monitor, trains and supports communities internationally in the use of environmental monitoring tools to understand and address industrial toxic pollution threats to their health and the environment. GCM collaborates with an established network of environmental health experts in the US and internationally to leverage resources for the communities.

ATA Law Group represents nonprofits, community groups, property owners, environmental justice communities and individuals impacted by pollution.


October 21, 2015

Contact: Gustavo Aguirre Jr. 661-889-1917

Ingrid Brostrom 510-717-8482

Air Emissions from the Covanta Biomass Facility Result in Fines
Community complaints lead to over $30,000 in violation penalties

DELANO, CA—The San Joaquin Valley Air District recently found the Covanta biomass incinerator in Delano liable for seven air quality infractions, leading to over $30,000 in penalties.  The latest in the series of violations was settled on September 10th, resulting in a $20,000 fine for Covanta’s “failure to comply with visible emissions limits.” The air district’s action is responding to a resident-led effort to monitor and report suspected violations from the Covanta facility.  

According to reports from residents, the facility consistently fails to control smoke emitted from a pair of smoke stacks just two miles south of Delano.  Over the last year, concerned residents living nearby the facility have filed over 20 complaints to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, through the community-based Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) reporting platform. The air district used these complaints to investigate, ultimately finding the company liable for seven separate violations of its air permits.

“For communities in the San Joaquin Valley, this represents a public health victory,” said Cesar Campos, Director of Central California Environmental Justice Network. “In many cases these facilities are plagued with poor compliance, as we see with the facility in Delano, and serve to advance a scenario in which fence-line communities suffer while other areas of the state reap the benefits.”

These violations come at a time when the future of biomass facilities across the state is uncertain, as decreasing costs in renewable sources of energy are driving down profit margins for this industry.  This year, the California State Legislature held a bill that would have used greenhouse gas reduction funding to subsidize biomass operations.

Ingrid Brostrom, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, suggests that given the poor air quality of the San Joaquin Valley, we should be looking for better alternatives to the burning of agricultural waste products. “This nutrient rich material should be returned to the soil to help the productivity of our agriculture, not burned to increase air pollution. Let’s go for the win-win solution, where we can promote better soil and healthier, cleaner communities.”

Gustavo Aguirre, Jr., Coordinator of the KEEN project said, “This case demonstrates that residents are, in fact, experts in their communities and they should be more closely supported by government agencies that are expected to protect public health and the environment.”

About KEEN

The Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) is a community-based environmental justice project that empowers residents by allowing them to report environmental concerns easily, safely and anonymously.  In Kern County, this network has helped bring environmental justice issues to the forefront since its inception in 2012. The project also involves working with regulatory agencies to find solutions to the reports via compliance and enforcement actions.  To learn more about KEEN, please visit or to report by phone call: 1-661-379-0411.

When $100,000 is not enough: how citizen data (could) relate to government regulation

by liz with gretchengehrke, reltub1 | October 01, 2015 02:01 | 587 views | 0 comments | shortlink

October 29, 2013: The headline on reads: “Houston we have a problem: Six little inches of air will determine whether millions of dollars will be spent to clean up the air of millions of people in the Oil and Chemical Capital of the World.”

From the front porch of a single family home in Galena Park, Houston, the sights and sounds of industry come from all around: diesel trucks revving and idling, the clank of cranes setting down new sections of pipelines, the screeching brakes of trains loaded with Bakken Crude Oil, the low tones of container ship horns.

Below, Galena Park with industry in the background. Houston Chronicle, August 5, 2014:


Galena Park is a predominantly Hispanic, low-income area of approximately 3,000 households living in single family homes located along the Houston Ship Channel.

The community’s commercial strip, Clinton Drive, is also the thoroughfare for all truck traffic generated by the Port of Houston and the many facilities along that part of the Houston Ship Channel. On average, Clinton Drive see several thousand diesel trucks daily. The high traffic roadways and petrochemical refineries expose the under-resourced neighborhood to significant air quality impacts from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) even as economic tightening and technological advancements have reduced the number of jobs available to those who live nearest this industrial cluster.

Being that the Houston-Galveston region is such a heavily industrialized area, the EPA closely monitors air quality via an array of regulatory air monitoring stations. And although Galena Park has a PM2.5 regulatory monitor right on Clinton Drive, community members will quickly point out that it is outside of the city’s primary residential areas. Clinton Drive runs alongside the shipping channel by Galena Park about a mile to a mile and a half outside the residential area where the bulk of homes, the elementary, junior, and high schools, Early Head Start, and Recreation Center host most of the population. The sources of PM2.5 are closer to the neighborhood than the monitoring station is.


There are two Federal Regulatory Monitors at the Clinton Drive site, a pump which draws 16.67 liters of air per minute through a 3” intake continually over a 24 hour duration, and a filter which collects physical samples to be weighed. The City of Houston and the City of Galena Park have made specific landcover improvements in the vicinity of the regulatory monitor that were not made in the neighborhood, such as planting trees in the median of Clinton Drive and paving nearby parking lots, both of which have the effect of keeping the dust down. For these reasons, the Galena Park community has longstanding concerns that the regulatory monitor is not reflective of the airquality within the actual community.

EPA long term data for Galena Park shows annual averages of PM2.5 hovering at 11.6 micrograms per cubic meter, just below the annual threshold of 12 μg/m3, which would be a violation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) (, as authorized by the Clean Air Act

Clinton Drive’s hourly real time data is published here ( by the Texas Commision for Environmental Quality, accompanied with the following text:

PLEASE NOTE: This data has not been verified by the TCEQ and may change. This is the most current data, but it is not official until it has been certified by our technical staff. Data is collected from TCEQ ambient monitoring sites and may include data collected by other outside agencies. This data is updated hourly. All times shown are in local standard time unless otherwise indicated.

TCEQ data shows variability including peaks at times that seem to correspond with early AM diesel truck traffic and idling:


Notice PM 2.5 at the bottom row of parameters.

This hourly data shown here gives us a moment to consider that EPA 24 hour standards allow for much higher values of 35 μg/m3. This leads to a question often posed by fenceline communities, “Considering that some days the industrial campuses are not operating, and are releasing zero emissions, how many 0.0 μg/m3 and 35 μg/m3 days combine to create a 12 μg/m3 annual average? What is our actual health exposure to particulates?”

But back to the main story: If airborne PM2.5 were to have an average annual concentration above 12 μg/m3, then the federal EPA could assert authority, requiring Texas to draft a new plan to ensure that it will achieve the NAAQS standards, which would likely incorporate stricter emissions permits. Stricter emissions permits may require substantial technological upgrades or expensive operational changes, and therefore are generally met with resistance from industry groups; however, quoting Brian Butler, “Sometimes cost is the argument i hear from some industries about why they can’t do environmental improvements. But we have seen examples in the past where some industries have been able to recapture their investment in mitigation technologies through improved operational efficiency and reduction of loss of product.” Citizen groups also could take action to file against the Texas CEQ or the federal EPA for failure to take the actions available to each respective agency to uphold the Clean Air Act if the Houston air were not in attainment of the NAAQS (e.g. higher than 12 μg/m3 PM2.5 over a year).

Therefore, beginning in 2012, seeking to both understand and address air quality conditions in Galena Park, regional environmental advocates Air Alliance Houston (AAH) and international environmental health and justice non-profit Global Community Monitor (GCM) undertook a community health impact survey, a community mapping workshop, and a community air monitoring project.

Monitoring details

To skip ahead, we’ll present what data was actually collected by what methods: GCM and AAH conducted air monitoring over the course of a year for fine particulate matter and elemental carbon (a surrogate for diesel pollution) at four community-selected sites inside the Galena Park residential neighborhood. In total, over $100,000 was spent. The equipment and methods involve two MiniVol11 Tactical Air Samplers (TAS) and laboratory analysis of the MiniVol filters, 47 mm Teflon filter media which has been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (link to 1999 study, and look out for FRM documentation links later in this post).


It is fair to ask, why would a community group invest so much money in MiniVols? Global Community Monitorreports that Quality Assurance Protocols for the MiniVol have been approved by the State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the State of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. There is a monitoring project underway in Oregon with a DEQ approved plan, with one minor note that “because of the lower flow rate of the MiniVol, the minimum detection limits (MDLs) will be higher.” Discussions are underway with some of the State of California’s Air Districts and EPA Region 9 that would mandate follow-up research to be conducted by the agencies if community submitted data from MiniVols or buckets indicated levels exceeding regulatory standards. Additionally, MiniVols are accessible because many state and county health departments own them and in some cases have loaned them to community projects, as in Albuquerque New Mexico to the South Western Organizing Project (SWOP).

Exhaustive details of the monitoring protocol excerpted from the final report issued by AAH can be found here:

Interestingly, in the Galena Park study, there was no statistical difference between community-collected MiniVol data and the TCEQ’s data. Stepping aside from the long standing debates between how government averages are calculated over periods of year(s) (for both pollution and human health response to exposure levels) versus how communities experience hotspots / peak events, the statistical similarity means that to some extent the MiniVols were on point. And yes, the community and several doctors continue to be concerned about the high peak levels of particulate matter. But here is where this post takes a different turn because those issues are not what the EPA addressed in their response to AAH’s submission:

The EPA wrote a response titled “Responses to Significant Comments 2012 Annual PM2.5 NAAQS December 17, 2014”, in their document “PM 2.5 Desig RTC EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0918-0337-1.PDF,” Section 3.2.4. EPA Region VI. The following is reprinted from page 56 of 68:


Comment: The commenters questioned whether the monitoring data obtained at the [EPA] Clinton Drive Monitor site is representative for the Galena Park community and submitted monitoring data gathered from five monitoring sites operated by Air Alliance Houston at various locations within the community (see Figure 2 below). The commenters believe the Air Alliance monitoring data demonstrated that the Clinton Drive [EPA] monitor was not representative of area air quality and that the area could be in violation of the NAAQS.

EPA Response: We first note that we must consider all valid data within the relevant 3- year time frame that is collected in conformance with the Federal Reference Methods and siting requirements in our designation decision. As discussed below, the Clinton Drive monitoring site meets these requirements and therefore, must be considered. The location of the Clinton Drive monitor conforms to all applicable siting criteria, as set forth in 40 CFR Part 58, Appendix D and E, and has been approved by the EPA as part of TCEQ’s most recent Annual Monitoring Network Plan and 5-year Monitoring Network Assessment. The Clinton Drive monitor is approximately 1.5 miles from Galena Park, as shown in Figure 2. At Clinton Drive, TCEQ operates PM2.5 Federal Reference Method (FRM) and non-FRM continuous monitors.

With regard to whether the data collected by Air Alliance Houston indicates a violation, Region 6 evaluated the monitoring data submitted by the commenter. Approximately 29 discrete samples were collected in the Galena Park community over a 16-month period from May 2012 through September 2013, thus the data is limited in scope compared to the data collected by regulatory monitors over a 3-year period and subject to data completion criteria. Additionally, these data were also not monitored and collected according to the requirements of the federal reference method for PM2.5 found in 40 CFR part 50, Appendix L. Our designations must be based on valid 3-year design values, and even if the monitoring data submitted by the commenters fully complied with the siting and data quality criteria, there are not sufficient data on which to derive a valid, 3-year design value.

Therefore, these data do not affect our decision to designate the area as Unclassifiable/ Attainment.

End Quote. Short story: despite the alignment in data, the EPA’s dismissal of the project because the tool and methods were not FEM/FRM (see below) appears to be undercutting the EPA’s own rhetoric of funding and working with EJ communities collecting citizen science data.

Oh and in case anyone’s looking for 40 CFR part 50, Appendix L, check page 84 of 91 in or here


In response to the response given to the AAH Galena Park monitoring project by the EPA, Brian Butler of AAH presented the above poster at the July 2015 EPA Community Air Monitoring Training workshop, and says,

”I wrote the title “What’s the Use?” as a double entendre expressing the futility of collecting data that won’t have impact and to also pose a honest question to the EPA.”

As writers of this post, we are wondering out loud about this kind of response from the EPA. During a time where the EPA awards grants to conduct citizen science under their Environmental Justice program area. and much time and effort is then spent by communities collecting data on environmental quality, a dismissive response like this seems patronizing and like an opportunity was missed for more collaborative environmental management.

NB: Please see a quick background on the EPA prepared for this blog post here:

Where does citizen data fit in the realm of EPA assessment and enforcement?

Not an exhaustive list, but the biggies:


Federal Reference Method & Federal Equivalent Method

drumroll please…”And at last we come to FRMs and FEMs”

FRM: Federal Reference Method FEM: Federal Equivalent Method

Title 40, Part 53 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR Part 53): Title 40 CFR 53.1 – Definitions:

Definition of FRM: Federal reference method (FRM) means a method of sampling and analyzing the ambient air for an air pollutant that is specified as a reference method in an appendix to part 50 of this chapter, or a method that has been designated as a reference method in accordance with this part; it does not include a method for which a reference method designation has been canceled in accordance with § 53.11 or § 53.16.

Definition of FEM: Federal equivalent method (FEM) means a method for measuring the concentration of an air pollutant in the ambient air that has been designated as an equivalent method in accordance with this part; it does not include a method for which an equivalent method designation has been canceled in accordance with § 53.11 or § 53.16.

Definitions don’t quite capture “purpose”, so although it may seem obvious, let’s rhetorically ask why we have FRMs and FEMs? First and foremost, we have FRMs and FEMs because we want the highest quality data to inform us about our environment. The EPA also has liability to consider, and wants to ensure that the data underlying its assertions or actions are highly defensible. This is logical from a regulatory standpoint and an enforcement standpoint.

Issues arise, however, as we return to Appendix L and read that FRMs specify branded and trademarked technologies and list individual manufacturers of the devices needed to assess air quality.


Restating this, the current status is that to collect regulatory quality environmental data, one must use blackboxed, patented products. Many patented technologies are commercialized to sell at prices that are inaccessible to most citizens, and thus there is a huge financial barrier disabling the public from gathering data and producing “valid” information. But this is the type of tech development (closed source, patented, expensive) funded by the EPA and established as the standard for environmental assessment. Requiring FRMs or FEMs for even the lowest screening-level assessments unnecessarily impede the ability of citizens to collaborate with environmental agencies in the monitoring of their local environments because FRMs and FEMs are too costly and time-consuming for persons other than official government personnel to perform.

Before even getting to phase where products are named and sold, there is a research and development phase yielding results on how technology works that could be published openly. There are many open source innovators eager to collaborate with the EPA that are hindered simply by closed publishing. In one anecdote from 2013 and 2014, the EPA excitingly came very close to supporting this space when they ran an assessment of low cost, air quality sensors being used in the DIY and citizen science communities, and published the summary results in the Air Sensor Guidebook But, under the, the EPA was able to request that companies send in their devices for testing, perform an incredible amount of very valuable comparative testing, yet not release any of the actual data that could help citizen innovators learn how technology in this space was performing and spur open source innovation.

Why does the EPA distribute and use funds for closed source development? In some ways, it is a result of a worldview that holds that patents spur technological development through the future profits available to those who invest in research and development. But open source, commons-based peer production offers another path for spurring innovation.

Consequences result from this patent regime: as things currently stand, there’s simply no way for citizens and government to speak the same language on air quality. In an age of open data, we argue that “gov can dish it but can’t take it” (Barry, 2012). But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Air Alliance Houston is concerned that their time and money, and that of other grassroots groups, is being wasted because there is no pathway for community-collected data to have impact at the enforcement level. As Brian Butler writes, this is a serious issue of the EPA contradicting itself, or worse, patronizing EJ communities through offering citizen science grants just to go through the motions of a potemkin process. Clearly, technology is a fast moving space, and we are in an awkward period where the EPA’s proverbial door is opened to citizen data, but it can’t come in.

We need pathways for citizen and community collected data to connect to agency regulatory action

Perhaps modeled after QAPP levels, evidence levels could be established, and a place for screening to prompt further action. A suggestion along these lines has already been made in the EPA’s 2014 Air Sensor Guidebook report, though it is incomplete as it mostly discusses relative standard deviations that could be appropriate and does not include a pathway for driving action or response from the government at any level.

Here are some larger ideas around supporting innovation and citizen <-> government collaboration that have been informed by positions articulated by Mathew Lippincot @mathew :

  • results from federally funded research must be published in journals that do not require paid subscriptions to access, and the data from the study be published in open formats
  • federally funded tool development should not be patentable
  • additional federal funds for commercializing patented tech should not be awarded

Imagine with us for a moment how this might play out … the EPA might become a steward of open source reference designs for environmental assessment technology. EPA-stewarded designs might specify performance criteria rather than branded and patented technologies. Data captured by these new “Open Federal Reference Methods” might be stored in open formats, with no specialized or closed source technology required to access it. Technology for environmental monitoring gets better, cheaper, and more accessible. Communities and agencies begin to speak the same language, cease wasting time arguing and move forward together on understanding and improving environmental quality.

In the US alone, thousands of individuals and communities are exploring open source environmental monitoring and are hungry to collaborate with the EPA. In the final tally, what’s at stake is human health and our combined abilities as community plus government to ensure environmental quality.

GCM’s Letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Read a letter from GCM to the CSPC highlighting the comments of the public about the problems with Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring.

Fortune: Lumber Liquidators CEO quits amid federal probe into flooring safety, lawsuits

From Fortune The discount hardwood floor retailer found itself in even more turmoil as its CEO abruptly resigned amid a federal probe into product safety and dozens of lawsuits. Lumber Liquidators Holdings LL -16.50% Chief Executive Bob Lynch has abruptly resigned, creating even more turmoil at the discount hardwood flooring retailer as it faces a Continue Reading »

NY Times: Lumber Liquidators CEO unexpectedly quits

From the New York Times Lumber Liquidators, under scrutiny for months as it faces accusations that it sold products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde, said Thursday that its chief executive had left the company. The chief executive and president, Robert M. Lynch, resigned “unexpectedly,” the company said. Thomas D. Sullivan, the company’s founder, will serve Continue Reading »

CBS News: Lumber Liquidators CEO unexpectedly quits

From CBS News Lumber Liquidators (LL) said Thursday that CEO Robert Lynch is stepping down. Lynch’s surprise exit from the flooring retailer follows a plunge in the company’s financial performance triggered by a March report by CBS news show “60 Minutes” that found some of the Chinese-made laminate flooring sold at its store violated health Continue Reading »

Lumber Liquidators’ insurers want out amid scandal

Lumber Liquidators’ fight against claims its China-sourced laminate flooring contained unsafe levels of formaldehyde could get a lot tougher. Many of the retailer’s product liability insurance carriers are refusing to defend the company in class-action suits brought by unhappy customers — forcing the company to file suit against the insurers, court papers filed in a Continue Reading »

Feds open criminal probe of Lumber Liquidators

The floor gave way under Lumber Liquidators on Wednesday. The troubled hardwood flooring retailer, in a blizzard of bad news, revealed the feds have launched a criminal probe into its China-sourced laminate flooring; reported that first-quarter results swung to a loss from a profit last year; and announced that Chief Financial Officer Daniel Terrell is Continue Reading »

Get the complete and most up to date list on our website.

From our partners at Care2.

Lumber Liquidators, one of the largest flooring retailers in the U.S., appears to be selling laminate that contains unacceptable levels of formaldehyde. The levels are so high, pediatricians worry that children who breathe in air contaminated by formaldehyde emissions could develop asthma or other respiratory ailments.

Global Community Monitor, a non-profit organization that helps citizens monitor air pollution in the U.S. and around the world, has launched a petition on Care2 to get Lumber Liquidators to stop selling unsafe laminate, recall what it has already sold, and replace the toxic laminate with a safe and healthy alternative. You can get the full details of the petition here.

What is Formaldehyde and Why Should You Care?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, formaldehyde is a colorless, reactive, strong-smelling gas at room temperature. A volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde is an industrial chemical that is used in home furnishings, household cleaners, pesticides, paints and flooring, like the laminate being sold by Lumber Liquidators.

The CDC says formaldehyde is dangerous because exposure to it can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, coughing, wheezing, and allergic reactions. “Long-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been associated with cancer in people and lab animals,” says the CDC here.

Why is Formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators Laminate a Problem?

Global Community Monitor had a large sample of the laminates Lumber Liquidators produces in China tested for formaldehyde emissions.  Amazingly, the results showed that some laminated flooring contains almost 20 times more than what is legally allowed to be sold. “The test labs thought the machine (used to test for formaldehyde) was broken,” Denny Larson, the group’s CEO, told 60 Minutes when they investigated the story.

In that 60 Minutes report, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who specializes in environmental pollution at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, told reporter Anderson Cooper, “It’s not a safe level. It’s at a level that the U.S. EPA calls polluted indoor conditions.”

Asked “Would you want that in your home?” Dr. Landrigan answered an emphatic “No!”

Lumber Liquidators has challenged the recent negative press, saying the tests used to gauge the formaldehyde levels are unfair. The tests (designed by the California Air Resources Board, or CARB) rip apart the laminate in the flooring, which helps seal-in the formaldehyde, according to Liquid Lumbers.

That may help a little, but the formaldehyde still poses a risk, says environmental attorney Richard Drury to NPR. “This piece of plastic that’s on top of the board is not an emissions control device, it’s a piece of plastic.”

Dr. Landrigan explained that it might not produce symptoms in everybody, but children are the most vulnerable and likely to show symptoms.

“It would be risky because it increases the risk of chronic respiratory irritations, change in a person’s lung function, and increased risk of asthma.”

Global Community Monitor is directing its petition at Tom Sullivan, CEO and Founder of Lumber Liquidators. It is asking Sullivan to “take action today to stop selling any unsafe Chinese laminate.” It also urges the company to “pay to remove and replace the flooring for those who unsuspectingly bought their products containing this toxic chemical.”

You can get more information and sign the petition here.

Read more:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2015 CONTACTS: Denny Larson, GCM, 415-845-4705; Richard Drury, Esq., Lozeau Drury LLP, 510-836-4200

Today, Lumber Liquidators acknowledged that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has tested Lumber Liquidators’ products and preliminary results show that some of the products exceed the CARB formaldehyde standard. The admission was made by the company’s CEO, Robert Lynch during a conference call. Lumber Liquidators also announced, for the first time, that it is offering free formaldehyde tests and potentially the replacement of floors which may be found to exceed acceptable levels of formaldehyde.

The transcript from today’s briefing states: “CARB has ‘deconstructed’ our products in routine inspections, as well as we believe others in the industry, in order to try to determine if the core materials complied. In CARB’s preliminary findings, some of our samples they deconstructed and tested (due to the variability of the test) exceeded the limits for raw cores.”

“CARB testing is the standard to which Lumber Liquidators’ laminate products must be held,” said Denny Larson, Executive Director of GCM. “They admitted today that CARB has made a preliminary finding that some of their products have failed to pass the formaldehyde test conducted by CARB. Lumber Liquidators must go farther to make sure that all of their laminate products comply with the standard and provide increased protection for the consumers.” GCM has asked Lumber Liquidators to disclose which products failed the CARB testing and by how much above the CARB formaldehyde standard. Lumber Liquidators’ laminate products have now failed to pass the CARB formaldehyde test conducted dozens of times by 60 Minutes, at least three independent laboratories, and apparently by CARB itself. While Lumber Liquidators continues to dispute the test method, the test method has been adopted, published and applied by CARB itself.


Global Community Monitor is a nonprofit environmental health and justice organization empowering communities to prevent their exposure to toxic chemicals and promote healthy outcomes for all. Global Community Monitor is joined in the Proposition 65 lawsuit by Sunshine Park, a firm affiliated with private investment companies that have substantial short financial exposure to Lumber Liquidators. Sunshine Park and its affiliates have financed extensive testing and have conducted substantial on-the-ground investigation regarding Chinese-made laminate flooring production.

GCM Announces New Testing Results of Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made Laminates


CONTACT: Denny Larson, 415‐845‐4705; Michael Lozeau, 510‐836‐4200CONSUMERS CONTACT: Linda Dardarian, 800‐538‐1467

GCM Announces New Testing Results of Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made Laminates

All Chinese‐made Laminates Purchased for Testing Failed CARB Standards

Why These Tests Matter

As noted in the 60 Minutes report, which aired on March 1, 2015, probably tens of thousands of households in California and probably hundreds of thousands of households nationwide are being exposed to formaldehyde emissions from Lumber Liquidators Chinese‐made laminate flooring(i).

According to its website, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “evaluated formaldehyde exposure in California and found that one of the major sources of exposure is from inhalation of formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products containing urea‐formaldehyde resins. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans” in 2004, based on the increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer. Formaldehyde was also designated as a toxic air contaminant (TAC) in California in 1992 with no safe level of exposure. State law requires ARB to take action to reduce human exposure to all TACs.” (emphasis added).(ii)

The Standards

CARB’s emissions standards regulate the formaldehyde emissions from “composite wood products” such as particleboard, plywood, and medium density fiberboard (MDF). These composite wood products are used in finished goods such as laminate flooring, furniture, or shelving. The underlying particleboard, plywood, or MDF is sometimes referred to as the “core” of the finished good.

CARB’s emission standards make it unlawful to sell products, including laminate wood flooring, in California that contain composite wood cores that exceed certain formaldehyde levels set by CARB.

The Test Method & Results

The tests analyzed Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring purchased in California both in stores and online – the same flooring that consumers would purchase. Lumber Liquidators states that this laminate flooring complies with the CARB Phase 2 Formaldehyde standard. Three different laboratories conducted extensive testing on this flooring – these labs performed over 80 “deconstruction tests” (of which 76 were on Chinese‐made laminates) using the CARB‐approved finished goods methodology and over 200 other formaldehyde tests.

Every single U.S.‐made Lumber Liquidators laminate product purchased for testing passed the CARB standard. Every single Chinese‐made Lumber Liquidators laminate product purchased for testing failed the CARB standard – and by a large average margin. The average formaldehyde emissions of the Chinese‐made products tested was over 6x the CARB legal limit for the MDF core.



All Three Laboratories Used the CARB‐Approved Test Method

Each of the testing laboratories used the finished goods sample preparation method and test method developed by CARB and published on CARB’s website. This is the official CARB test method. CARB has only one published test method for testing for formaldehyde in finished products containing composite wood cores, and that is the test method the independent laboratories used.

The purpose of the deconstruction is to expose the composite wood core so that its emissions can be compared against CARB’s numeric limit. CARB has published a “Standard Operating Procedure” for finished goods testingiii. According to this SOP, this procedure “is to be used to prepare a finished good for laboratory testing to determine if the finished good complies with” CARB standards.(iv) Senior CARB personnel have confirmed that the SOP is the official CARB methodology for analyzing formaldehyde emissions from finished goods.

Lumber Liquidators has criticized the CARB test method, but that industry argument has long since been rejected by CARB. CARB’s official legislative history from 2007 states:

Yes it is correct that finished products must be deconstructed to test for compliance. But, we disagree that there is great uncertainty in the enforcement program. Deconstructive testing is needed for finished goods to verify compliance with the emission standards. We are currently developing the sample preparation and testing protocols that we will use to enforce the ATCM (see page 127 of the ISOR). The sample preparation and emission testing protocol we use to enforce the ATCM will be technically sound and will be more than adequate to identify non‐ compliant composite wood products found in finished goods for California.(v)

Although Lumber Liquidators says it has done testing, it does not say that it has performed deconstructive testing.

The company also posted a chart of “Fiberboard Core Testing” on its website. If these tests were performed by “Third Party Certifiers” (TPCs)vi in China, it would only indicate that the core manufacturer is capable of producing CARB‐compliant cores – not that the cores used in Lumber Liquidators’ products are actually CARB compliant. As noted by 60 Minutes, “[e]mployees at the mills openly admitted that they use core boards with higher levels of formaldehyde to make Lumber Liquidators laminates…they also admitted falsely labeling the company’s laminate flooring as CARB2”. In addition, TPCs sometimes conduct testing on pre‐scheduled dates (rather like announcing the location of highway “speed traps.”) Therefore, TPC tests do not, and cannot, prove that all of Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese‐made products sold in the United States comply with CARB standards. Lumber Liquidators has acknowledged as much in a public court filing:

“A [third‐party certification] is obtained from an approved, third‐party testing lab that tests samples of products – not every product – for formaldehyde levels. Thus, LL’s statement that it obtains [third‐party certifications] from its suppliers (mills) is in no way a representation that every single product meets CARB’s standards.”(vii)


Global Community Monitor is a nonprofit environmental health and justice organization empowering communities to prevent their exposure to toxic chemicals and promote healthy outcomes for all. Global Community Monitor is joined in the Proposition 65 lawsuit by Sunshine Park, a firm affiliated with private investment companies that have substantial short financial exposure to Lumber Liquidators. Sunshine Park and its affiliates have financed extensive testing and have conducted substantial on‐the‐ ground investigation regarding Chinese‐made laminate flooring production.


(i) Lumber Liquidators (LL) has stated that it had “over 620,000 customer transactions” in 2014 alone. LL also states that Laminate, Bamboo, Cork, and Vinyl Plank together accounted for 38% of net sales in 2014. In previous years, LL also disclosed that laminates were 22%, 23%, and 21% of net sales in 2012, 2011, and 2010, respectively. Source: Lumber Liquidators Holdings, Inc. SEC filings

(ii) See
(iii) This SOP can be found in the “Test Methods” section of CARB’s website (
(iv) See
v See [Agency Response [24‐Landry‐ 070423‐CWIC] (emphasis added).
(vi) CARB defines a Third Party Certifier as “an organization or entity approved by the Executive Officer that verifies the accuracy of the emission test procedures and facilities used by manufacturers to conduct formaldehyde emission tests, monitors manufacturer quality assurance programs, and provides independent audits and inspections.” See
(vii) See Donnie Williamson, et al., v Lumber Liquidators, Inc. Case #1:14‐00035‐GBL‐TCB. “Memorandum in Support of Defendant Lumber Liquidators, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).” Emphasis in original

Thank you to everyone who watched 60 Minutes last night and supported us.  Today, our phone lines are ringing off of the hook and we’re doing our best to respond to all of the e-mails and messages.  We’ve updated our website with more information.

Global Community Monitor’s work to protect the public from health threats will be featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday March 1st.


According to 60 Minutes’ own show notes:

After a seven-month investigation, 60 MINUTES found that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold in Lumber Liquidator outlets across the country contains amounts of toxic formaldehyde that may not meet health and safety standards.  Anderson Cooper reports.

In July 2014, Global Community Monitor released independent lab tests showing that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the Lumber Liquidators chain emits formaldehyde at levels far above the level requiring cancer warnings under California law.

Read more about the GCM’s work to protect public health.

Protect your family

If you live in California and have purchased laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators in the past several years, you can find more information here.

Join the fight to protect our health

Make a gift to support GCM’s work to use legal means to protect public health.




~Save the Date~

60 Minutes Viewing Party

March 1, 2015 – 5pm – 8pm at the Ivy Room60 minutes invite

GCM is going to be on 60 Minutes and we’re all meeting up at the Ivy Room to watch it!  Pamela’s going to bring some salad and Denny’s making vegan chili & cornbread so BYO chili toppings and support our local watering hole by buying a cocktail from the bar.

Come join GCM Staff (we may even sign an autograph or two..) and learn more about the work we’re doing in California and worldwide to protect everyone from toxic exposure.

RSVP here

Blog sponsored by…