According to a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, the CDC has found unacceptable levels of toxic formaldehyde fumes in government FEMA trailers, issued to hurricane victims as housing on the Gulf Coast. A study of FEMA trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi found exposure levels 40 times greater than the safe level in some trailers, and levels five times greater than those in a regular home in most trailers. According to the New York Times, more than 35,000 of the trailers are still in use in the Gulf Coast region, and FEMA is moving forward with plans to house victims of last week’s tornados in Arkansas and Tennessee in the trailers.
CDC has advised that FEMA should move people out of the trailers as soon as possible, especially children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems. People with asthma could sustain breathing problems and burning eyes from the exposures, as well as severe asthma attacks. Formaldehyde has also been tagged as a probable carcinogen. Common difficulties associated with formaldehyde exposure include headaches, coughing, wheezing, and a burning throat. Formaldehyde can also cause allergies.
UPDATE: FEMA’s goal is to have 35,000 Gulf Coast residents out of FEMA trailers by the summer of 2008, according to FEMA administrtor R. Daivd Paulison. Ambitious goal for an agency that has been so inept at dealing with problems in the past. Lets hope for the best.