<\body> Stories in America: FEMA knowingly allowed Katrina survivors to suffer from 'toxic trailers'

Friday, July 20, 2007

FEMA knowingly allowed Katrina survivors to suffer from 'toxic trailers'

For links, visit The Center for American Progress:
An investigation of 5,000 documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reveals that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received multiple warnings about dangerous levels of formaldehyde in FEMA trailers provided for victims of Hurricane Katrina but refused to conduct testing of occupied trailers because testing "would imply FEMA's ownership of this issue." Formaldehyde is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and can cause respiratory ailments, allergic reactions of the skin and eyes, and menstrual disorders, to name a few.

In a hearing before the committee, "three people who had lived in the trailers said they believed that exposure to formaldehyde... was the cause of health problems including sore throats, burning eyes and respiratory problems. FEMA administrator R. David Paulison claimed he was not "100 percent sure that it was the trailers" that caused the health problems, but "Mary C. DeVany, an occupational health and safety engineer advising the Sierra Club, testified that the exposure limit of 0.3 parts per million is 400 times the normal limit for year-round exposure set by the Centers for Disease Control."

Furthermore, the documents "show that the agency repeatedly received complaints from occupants about high formaldehyde levels, but brushed them aside." Several residents complained to FEMA and testified yesterday that FEMA did not warn residents about formaldehyde levels, denied new accommodations, and in one case, said a conference call about the death of a resident due to formaldehyde was "not acceptable."


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