Saturday, August 26, 2006

FEMA Trailers Exploding

Long-Awaited FEMA Trailer Explodes --AP, 8/26/06

Fire leaves family homeless --Times Picayune, 8/12/06

Hurricane Rita Evacuee dies in FEMA trailer fire --AP, 8/3/06
"...The victim had previously gone to the news media with concerns about the trailer's safety. ... In May, she spoke to Lake Charles television station K-P-L-C about exposure to formaldehyde in the two-bedroom mobile home. She said the exposure was causing headaches, a sore throat and sinus problems. According to the report, Schools said FEMA suggested that she open her windows to alleviate the problem."
Second FEMA Trailer Fire this Week Claims Life of St. Bernard Man in Slidell --St. Tammany, 8/3/06

Fire destroyed FEMA trailer --The Daily Star, 7/19/06

Trailer fire injures Harvey woman --Times Picayune, 7/17/06

Couple Burned in FEMA Trailer Explosion --AP, 4/16/06

Wheelchair User Perishes In FEMA Trailer --Inclusion Daily Express, 4/4/06

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Are FEMA trailers 'toxic tin cans'? --MSNBC, 7/25/06
...Air quality tests of 44 FEMA trailers conducted by the Sierra Club since April have found formaldehyde concentrations as high as 0.34 parts per million – a level nearly equal to what a professional embalmer would be exposed to on the job, according to one study of the chemical’s workplace effects.

And all but four of the trailers have tested higher than the 0.1 parts per million that the EPA considers to be an “elevated level” capable of causing watery eyes, burning in the eyes and throat, nausea, and respiratory distress in some people.

...Dr. Scott Needle, a pediatrician in Bay St. Louis, said he noticed some unusual and persistent health problems among his patients living in the trailers well before the possible link to formaldehyde exposure surfaced.

“I was seeing kids coming in with respiratory complaints – colds and sinus infections – and they were getting them over and over again,” he said. “…Almost invariably, these families were staying in the FEMA trailers."

...Despite the Sierra Club tests – and air quality testing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in November that detected formaldehyde levels at FEMA trailer holding stations on the Gulf Coast as high as 5.0 parts per million, or 50 times the EPA’s “elevated” level – FEMA says the trailers are safe and there is no need for it to conduct its own air-quality testing.
FEMA U-turn on trailer tests --MSNBC, 8/3/06
Responding to reports that formaldehyde may be sickening hurricane victims living in government-provided travel trailers along the Gulf Coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reversed course and ordered air quality tests to determine if some of the units are emitting unacceptably high levels of the toxic gas. ...The testing came under order of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff after he was alerted to an MSNBC.com article published on July 23...

...Secretary Michael Chertoff has been “very engaged in the issue” a Department of Homeland Security official told NBC's Pete Williams. The official said that in response to the MSNBC.com story, the secretary directed his staff to look at the matter thoroughly and to “turn it inside out to determine if there was any validity to the claims.”

...FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said the agency has requested the tests for formaldehyde “out of an abundance of caution” and added that agency officials remain “highly confident and comfortable in the travel trailer program.”

He said the agency has received only 46 complaints of suspected formaldehyde contamination in the more than 113,000 travel trailers deployed in the Gulf Coast since it began logging calls on a special hot line in March.

But another FEMA official (Mike Andrews, FEMA’s director of mobile home operations in Mississippi) said earlier this week that the agency already has determined that there is a problem with elevated formaldehyde levels in “two or three brands” of the at least 10 brands of travel trailers provided to the government under emergency contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

...An official with the Sierra Club, which has spearheaded efforts to get FEMA to test the trailers for formaldehyde, said Andrews’ remarks indicated “that FEMA has now acknowledged there is a problem.”

“But what about the people who don’t know why they have been so sick, why they and their kids get sick again and again?” said Becky Gillette, co-chair of the environmental organization’s Mississippi chapter. “FEMA needs to do far more. It needs to do comprehensive testing and should make sure that people are notified of the problem.”

Formaldehyde high in FEMA trailers --The Sun Herald, 8/25/06
Testing of FEMA travel trailers provided as temporary housing to those left homeless by Katrina continues to show illness-inducing levels of the chemical formaldehyde, the environmental group Sierra Club said Thursday.

The group has now tested 52 trailers in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, with 83 percent registering formaldehyde above 0.1 parts per million, a level the Environmental Protection Agency considers elevated.
...Kathleen Covington has been living in a FEMA trailer in Coden, Ala., since October. She tried to contact the local poison control center and health department after her 5-year-old started having asthma attacks in the night. She sent her 8-year-old away for three weeks after the child started getting nose bleeds. When the child left the trailer, she said, the nose bleeds stopped.

Covington has also been suffering with headaches and said she has lost 27 pounds in a month and a half.

"My kids just want to know when they are going to get better," Covington said.

Godish said the family's symptoms are a classic sign of formaldehyde exposure.

"The average person has no reason to know why they are having these illnesses," Godish said. "They just go to the doctor and have it treated."

FEMA To Test Methods To Reduce Formaldehyde In Travel Trailers --FEMA Press Release, 8/8/06

...Meanwhile, FEMA will soon begin distribution of a brochure to trailer occupants across the Gulf Coast explaining how those persons sensitive to formaldehyde may be affected by its presence and preliminary actions they can take to reduce their exposure in the trailers. The advice includes taking steps to:

  • Increase ventilation. Open the windows and door of the trailer and use fans to force stale air out and bring fresh air in.
  • Keep indoor temperatures cool. Heat does cause formaldehyde to increase the rate at which it releases fumes, so, after the trailer is well ventilated, keep temperatures cooler with air conditioning.
  • Lower the humidity. Like heat, humidity causes formaldehyde to release fumes, so keep the relative humidity at about 40 to 50 percent in the trailer.
  • Do not smoke inside. Tobacco smoking releases formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.
ALERT TO FEMA: During the summer in the Gulf Coast the temperature regularly reaches the triple digits! "Just control the weather and you'll be fine," seems to be their basic message.

Couple Discovers High-Levels of Formaldehyde in FEMA Trailer --ABC (WLOX), 3/17/06
...After waiting for several months, Paul and Melondy Stewart were overjoyed to finally receive a FEMA trailer in December. But almost immediately that joy left them.

"When we first moved in here we had significant symtoms which continued til today. We had burning eyes, burning nose, nasal headaches, that type of thing," Paul Stewart said.

...
The couple has tried everything to get rid of the fumes: opening windows and doors, even purchasing an industrial air purifier. But nothing seems to work.

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