WeWork Closes Thousands of Phone Booths Due to Cancerous Chemical

'The safety and well-being of our members is our top priority and we are working to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,' WeWork said in a statement

A WeWork logo is seen outside its offices in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 30, 2019.
Kate Munsch/ REUTERS

WeWork, the office-sharing company that is trying to negotiate a financial lifeline, has a new problem that may prove costly. It closed about 2,300 phone booths at some of its 223 sites in the United States and Canada after it says it discovered elevated levels of formaldehyde.

The company said in an email to tenants Monday that the chemical could pose a cancer risk if there is long-term exposure.

After a tenant complained of odor and eye irritation, WeWork began testing and based on the results took 1,600 phone booths out of service, the company said in the email to tenants, which it calls members.

An additional 700 booths were closed while more testing is conducted, it said. All the phone booths closed were installed over the past several months, WeWork said.

“The safety and well-being of our members is our top priority and we are working to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,” WeWork said in a statement.

More costs are the last thing needed at the company, which some analysts say is fast running out of cash. WeWork declined to comment on the cost of testing and replacing the booths. It also declined to identify the manufacturer.

It is in talks for a multibillion dollar rescue deal that could lead to its largest shareholder, Japan’s SoftBank, taking control.

“Long-term exposure to formaldehyde, such as that experienced by workers in jobs who experience high concentrations over many years, has been associated with certain types of cancers,” WeWork told tenants.