FEMA is under pressure again, this time from the House Homeland Security Committee, over an alleged cover-up of formaldehyde exposure from trailers provided to hurricane survivors.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita set down on U.S. soil in August 2005, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Two and half years later, FEMA says 40,000 families are still living in "temporary" FEMA travel trailers.
From the beginning, trailer occupants complained of fumes and classic symptoms of over-exposure to formaldehyde: headache, chronic nosebleeds, asthma, bronchitis and sinus infections. It turned out that these government-provided trailers were off-gassing toxic levels of formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde, used as a preservative in plywood and other construction materials, is a known carcinogen. So when it came to light that FEMA continued to distribute the toxic trailers to families even after they knew of the formaldehyde issue, the Breast Cancer Fund asked its supporters to write letters to President Bush in August 2007. Our ask then: an executive order to FEMA to stop distributing the tainted trailers and replace those already in use with formaldehyde-free trailers.
Now, FEMA stands accused of stifling the release of information that formaldehyde in the trailers could be harmful, and of ignoring a CDC recommendation that the trailers were for temporary use only, not to be lived in.
Our hope now: that FEMA comes clean about formaldehyde exposure and moves all 40,000 families out of trailers and into safe, toxin-free environments.
Said Rep. Nick Lampson, who is asking for more information from FEMA and CDC: "Not following good science in advising people to do things as they try to recover from one tragedy is indeed a much greater tragedy this is compounding."