- Posted June 4, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
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Fema Trailer Fomaldehyde Litigation
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical used to make products such as particle board, that are incorporated into travel trailers and mobile homes. Exposure to formaldehyde at certain levels can cause burning eyes and breathing problems. Formaldehyde is also classified as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and a "probable carcinogen" by U.S. federal government agencies.
After the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA provided more than 120,000 trailers and mobile homes to victims of those storms. FEMA ordered thousands of trailers from private manufacturers and also bought thousands of trailers and mobile homes from manufacturers and retailers. It has been reported that the total cost of the purchase and deployment of these trailers and mobile homes was more than $2.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds.
By 2006, residents of these trailers and mobile homes were complaining of nosebleeds, headaches and other illnesses. In 2006, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) tested FEMA trailers for formaldehyde emissions. In February 2007, ASTDR released their test results, which showed elevated and unsafe levels of formaldehyde in trailers and provided this information to FEMA. The Sierra Club also performed testing and found similar results.
However, FEMA did not take immediate action. After the House of Representatives Oversight Committee pressed FEMA, notably in a July 2007 hearing, FEMA promised to immediately test trailers (again) and take action if the trailers demonstrated unsafe levels of formaldehyde.
FEMA consulted with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to handle the testing. Despite FEMA’s promise to take quick action, the testing did not take place until December 2007 and January 2008. On February 14, 2008, federal health officials from FEMA and CDC announced that the CDC's testing of more than 500 trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi showed formaldehyde levels that were five times higher than levels in a normal house. The levels in some trailers were nearly forty times what is normal.
FEMA and the CDC advised people to move out of trailers quickly — especially children, the elderly and anyone with asthma or another chronic condition. Warmer temperatures can increase formaldehyde levels, and CDC officials said they want residents to move out of the trailers before summer.