FEMA Slow To Respond
People put in FEMA trailers after the 2005 hurricanes were exposed to possible health risks, says a report of the Homeland Security Department inspector general.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took too long to respond to the initial reports of formaldehyde used as a component of glues and particle board in trailers and manufactured homes and in some furniture and carpets in homes today.
The report reprimands FEMA for its slow response to reports that some trailers contained air registering with a dangerously high level of formaldehyde, reports AP.
Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, especially of the nose and throat. The level of toxic exposure is unknown.
After Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast, FEMA shipped more than 200,000 trailers to house about 700,000 displaced victims. The report says one-third of those homes had problems.
And even though FEMA was alerted about the formaldehyde problems in March 2006 through news reports and the Sierra Club, no action was taken.
The trailers today are largely abandoned except for about 3,000 households in Louisiana and Mississippi, reports MSNBC.
A FEMA spokesman says the agency largely agrees with the findings but today FEMA has new designs for trailers and mobile homes. Testing for formaldehyde is regularly done in those units by qualified contractors, according to the report.
Trailers and Formaldehyde
Federal scientists report that formaldehyde probably resulted from the cheap woods used to manufacture trailer homes, permitted under government standards.
An analysis by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, finds Katrina trailers emit the toxic chemical at four to 11 times of that found in a typical U.S. home. Residents of 42 percent of Katrina trailers tested were exposed to formaldehyde levels higher than what’s recommended for an occupational exposure of 15-minutes.
Couple that with poor ventilation in trailers and residents likely experienced even higher levels when the trailers were new.
Formaldehyde was found in “exceptionally large emissions” in the particleboard, a processed wood product and plywood used in mobile homes for walls, cabinets and floors. At the same time, ventilation is not adequate enough to allow the gasses to escape the small housing units.
Back in 1985, The Department of Housing and Urban Development identified particleboard and plywood as a large source of formaldehyde and set standards for mobile or manufactured homes.
Manufactured homes today use gypsum board in walls and ceilings.
In response, the Formaldehyde Council Inc. a lobbying group says through executive director, Betsy Natz, “Americans should feel confident in the knowledge that formaldehyde based products, such as composite wood panels produced and certified to be low in emissions by domestic manufacturers, are safe”.
Formaldehyde In Your Home
Even today, there is no safety standard for formaldehyde in U.S. homes.
Formaldehyde can be found in fiberglass, carpets, permanent press fabric, paper products and some household cleaners, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Exposure can lead to nosebleeds, a sore throat and cough. Some people are more sensitive than others. Bring in fresh air when using cleaning products and insecticides, the CDC recommends. #