After Whitney Tilson, managing partner of Kase Capital Management, claimed he purchased and tested five pieces of residential furniture sold by Wayfair.com and other national retailers that failed to comply with the California Air Resources Board formaldehyde standard, the American Home Furnishings Alliance released test results that it said confirmed the consumer safety of home furnishings containing engineered wood and the compliance of those products with California’s formaldehyde emission standard.
Tilson helped prompt a “60 Minutes” investigation of formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators products that resulted in a tumbling share price for the retailer’s stock.
AHFA stated that product tests it had conducted by UL Environment, a business unit of Underwriters Laboratory, determined that the formaldehyde emissions of products covered by the Tilson tests were well below the CARB standard and in compliance with all related regulations.
“We believe CARB-compliant wood products are safe for consumers,” said Andy Counts, CEO of AHFA. “In order to meet California formaldehyde emission limits, manufacturers of today’s composite wood components use new glue formulations, including ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde glues and no-added-formaldehyde glues. As a result, the wood furnishings built with these CARB-compliant components emit extremely low levels of formaldehyde.”
In a simulation of consumer use, UL Laboratory found that all four products sold by Wayfair produced formaldehyde emissions well below the CARB standard and at a level that UL characterized as extremely low.
In order to produce a higher formaldehyde emission level, AHFA asserted, Tilson used “deconstructive testing.”
Counts maintained, “Deconstructive testing is not a valid method for determining CARB compliance of the components within finished consumer products. In our many years of working with CARB staff, deconstructive testing has been used only as a screening tool to determine if further testing might be necessary. It produces widely variable results and, therefore, is considered imprecise and unreliable.”
He added, “We believe Tilson is using deconstructive testing in a way CARB never intended.”