Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sanctity of the Home

The safety and sanctity of the home has always been an aspiration to many. "A man's home is his castle." "Home is where the heart is." There are many sayings expressing the love for ones home and family and rightly so. There is often a feeling of peace and well being around thoughts of home. It isn't like that for everyone, though, in cases of abuse, violence, and poverty for example. In an ideal world, however, the desire to achieve some kind of peace in your own sanctuary may be relatively high on the list of things to do in a lifetime.

Where I am going with this is the latest news from the EPA and Lumber Liquidators about the amount of formaldehyde in laminate flooring made in China. The questions of how and why come up and can be answered here. Last year sales of the Chinese made products was suspended because of excessive off-gassing of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. All this came to the public's attention from a 60 Minutes investigation airing last March.

Investors have been upset and the CEO of Lumber Liquidators resigned and sales and profits are down. My heart bleeds for them. Not. Families have been and are being exposed to unsafe amounts of formaldehyde constantly. Lumber Liquidators has offered free air testing in homes. Whoopdee-do. What they should do is immediately start ripping out the questionable flooring and replacing it at no charge and hope their customers still don't sue them out of business which they may do anyway.

In the meantime, from USA Today, "In an unrelated matter, Lumber Liquidators recently agreed to a criminal settlement involving $13 million in penalties and five years of probation after acknowledging it was guilty of illegally importing wood from forests that are home to endangered species."

So much for ever considering buying anything from Lumber Liquidators.

It also was not until the 2012 passage of the Drywall Safety Act that drywall containing "high levels of hydrogen sulfide were found in the samples of Chinese wallboard, as well as sulfur dioxide, carbon disulfide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide, carbonyl sulfide and ethyl mercaptan." You see, after the hurricane seasons back around 2004 and 2005, rebuilding and repairing of houses overwhelmed the domestic drywall producers and we started importing the contaminated stuff from China. Over 20,000 homes were affected in the following years, mostly in Florida and Louisiana.

I had this horrible thought of living in a home in Flint, Michigan built with Chinese drywall and Lumber Liquidators flooring with poisonous water coming out of the taps. Suddenly the American dream of home ownership didn't look so appealing. It is much easier to bail when you rent than when you own, especially if your family is being slowly poisoned or killed by the home they live in.

I work in a small town contractor-oriented lumber yard, but I am usually aware of what goes on even out in the more heavily populated areas of the country.  There are common and relatively easy ways to know where your products come from. FSC® Chain of Custody Certified is the one we use to ensure we don't sell illegal wood or unsafe wood products. I will personally not sell any W.R. Grace products because of what they did to Libby, Montana which is still contaminated with asbestos.

Profits before people is not acceptable, but still goes on. The gutting of regulatory agencies by congress and presidents has been allowed to go nearly unchecked for years and we the people continue to pay the price. At some point just rocking the boat won't be enough. It will be time to sink the ship.


  1. A friend of mine's daughter is complaining on FB of having her second severe allergic reaction since moving into their new home, all in a span of two weeks. Never had any kind of allergic problem in her life, yet two weeks into this new address (not sure how old the home is) and she's back and forth to the doctor with a rash, swollen eyes, nasal issues, coughing, wheezing.

    I asked her if her new house had laminated flooring, but haven't heard back from her yet. Could be anything, I guess, but the Liquidator flooring was the first thing that sprang to mind when I read her post.

    When we allow the regulatory agencies to basically be defunded by conservatives, we open the door for tragedies like the Flint water crisis, Love Canal, and all of the oil train disasters taking place around the country.

  2. Regulation is important, especially for matters of public health. Whenever I hear some right-winger calling for "small government", I interpret that to mean fewer regulations, which is a BAD idea.

    Regarding the Flint water crisis, contaminated water is frightening residents across the U.S. Officials have a responsibility to serve the public trust, but if they're allowing these water crises to happen, they've failed.

  3. squatlo, It could be carpeting if it is new. These incidents were just recent headlines I could easily recall. This stuff goes on all over the place and it is getting more commonplace and more severe.

    Ahab, Deregulation is getting too risky and dangerous. The greed factor puts all other interests on the back burner and the general population suffers. It will only get worse unless we change it.

  4. Similar things are happening on this side of the world.
    Smaller government is NOT necessarily better government. It too often means a government which is ducking out from responsibilities which I believe it should claim. And safety is a big one of those responsibilities.

  5. I'm afraid that in the wake of the Flint water crisis, there will be other health-related scandals erupting in other parts of the country. Very disturbing.

  6. There is no regulation of manufacturing whatsoever in China. Never buy any electrical product from there either.

  7. 'Lumber Liquidators' is the perfect name for a gang of assassins. May the trees they have murdered have their vengeance, in this world or the next.

  8. It makes me sick hearing this. I remember the drywall from China being ripped out from Florida homes or the Fema trailers that were bad. Oh and by the way, I only drink water or coffee at McD's LOL!!! Nice having you visit my blog.

  9. The issues with the Chinese drywall were huge in Florida.

    People would find out that their homes were dangerous because of this drywall and would file a claim with their homeowner's insurance. Their insurance company would reject the claim - somewhat understandably, since it was not an accident that had caused damage - and advise the homeowner to turn to the builder. The builder, though, typically had filed for bankruptcy since all this happened after the real estate bubble had burst. And to make things worse, then the insurance company would cancel the homeowner's policy - because they would consider the house unfit to live in.

    It was a mess.

    Yet we keep buying things from China...clothes, furniture, pharmaceuticals...

  10. So, if too much chocolate or mashed potatoes doesn't get us, and if we don't die because of all the secondhand smoke we were subjected in the days when smoking was cool--you mean the floor or the walls might be the culprit?


  11. Elephants Child, Interesting that this is not just an American problem. Maybe you will have better luck getting your government to understand. Ours seems unwilling and unable.

    Donna, I am afraid we are starting to see the tips of the iceberg. The unbridled greed of many individuals and their minions in government will be unable to hide all of it for long.

    Debra, I wonder if they use their own products or if some are just made for export. I feel sorry for the everyday Chinese people.

    Gorilla, Thanks for pointing that out. I sometimes miss the obvious.

    Nancy, Maybe you should have that water and coffee checked every now and then. My level of trust in American business is somewhat diminished.

    JACKIESUE, You stated that so succinctly! I wish it wasn't true.

    Pixel Peeper, The area my parents lived in rarely got hit by anything major and they died about the time all this was beginning to happen. Florida seems to attract disaster in several ways. That drywall scandal was about the time Jeb! left office if I recall. As I noted to Debra, the Chinese people are probably in greater danger than they realize.

    Sioux, Yes! Horribly sad, isn't it? Up here radon gas is also prevalent and another cause of lung cancer. We do know how to build homes to alleviate the problem. It isn't difficult or expensive so even I did it.

  12. It's disgustingly evil and very common-place. At an apt complex I lived in, they were painting the upstairs apt. I started getting headaches from the fumes. I went to look at the paints - they had carcinogens. I fought with management about this but got nowhere. It was the cheapest paint on the market, naturally, so they were determined to use it. Ugh.

  13. After spending a decade back and forth to China in the 90's, I have one friend there with whom I would trust my life. Most of the rest I dealt with? If their lips move they are lying. EVERYTHING from china must be tested. If you buy one thing test one thing. If you buy 10,000 of them, test all 10,000. The top leadership is well aware of this problem and the impact it has on trade and on their own people. However changing it all the way down seems almost impossible.

  14. Robyn, Seems like it's always about the bottom line. VOC compliance is secondary. Or thirdary.

    Blog Fodder, I am always suspicious when a raw material can be shipped across the Pacific, turned into a final product and shipped back for cheaper than it can all be done without the shipping. Too many possibilities, none of which are pleasant.

  15. Greed and profit and the bottom line always, ALWAYS end up hurting someone, somewhere. Or many someones in many somewheres.

  16. I read an interesting psychological study that showed most CEOs and directors tend toward sociopathic character traits. They rise to the top because they have little or no empathy for other people and focus solely on their own desire for power and profit... which usually benefits the shareholders. And if the shareholders are happy, nothing else matters. When they get caught, the only thing they regret is their own lost profit. The human suffering they cause isn't even on their radar.

  17. Jenny O beat me to it.....i was going to say the same thing

  18. jenny_o, Yep, many someones, and the list is growing.

    Diane, In fairness, not all CEOs are like that, but way too many are. There is always the warning about being careful whose toes you step on on the way up because they might be attached to the foot that kicks your ass tomorrow.

    John, That's okay as it bears repeating.

  19. Thank you for the reference to "FSC® Chain of Custody Certified". I did not realize there was somewhere to look for potential problem building materials. As I am now about to embark on a bathroom reno, I will check it out.

    One thing - you state you won't sell Grace products. Understand the sentiment, but what do you recommend as a replacemenet for their very effective "Bitch-a-Thane". Honestly I never considered anything else and have applied hundreds of rolls over the years.

  20. MRMacrum, Bituthene is a good product and inexpensive. There are alternative products to most of its uses. Most common around here are foundation coatings and roof underlayments so we use more MEL-ROL and Winterguard for those uses. We don't have much commercial building up this way, so the demand isn't so great.

  21. The sad thing is the sanctions are so low compared to the profits, companies often budget for the lawsuits that will result when their products inevitably hurt people.

  22. And we don't need the EPA, right? Scary times.
    I had 8 weeks of vertigo after I moved into a new construction home.
    Gee, I wonder why.