Who do you turn to when the government agency that comes to your rescue ends up making you sick?
More than a year after initial reports that high levels of formaldehyde in trailers and mobile homes given to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita were making residents sick, FEMA still hasn't done its own large-scale testing. The results from private tests performed by the Sierra Club and a Galveston, TX law firm demonstrate that the problem might be much worse that anyone suspected.
Of the nearly 600 trailers tested, only nine actually fell below the CDC's long-term exposure limit. Another 14 were at about twice that level. The rest greatly exceeded it. Some of the travel trailers came in at 70 times the long-term exposure limit. Even the larger, airier mobile homes came in above the recommended levels, which at least one researcher believes indicates that the mobile homes were not built to HUD standards.
You may recall the internal emails in which FEMA employees were advised to postpone testing:
One June 2006 e-mail stated that FEMAâ€™s Office of General Counsel "has advised that we do not do testing" because this "would imply FEMA's ownership of this issue." Another agency attorney advised "[d]o not initiate any testing until we give the OK. While I agree we should conduct testing we should not do so until we are fully prepared to respond to the results. Once you get results and should they indicate some problem, the clock is running on our duty to respond to them."Well, they've done it again -- FEMA put off planned testing earlier this month,saying that they needed more time to determine "what level of exposure would be acceptable." In the meantime, they've stopped distributing the travel trailers and are working to re-house the 52 thousand people currently living in the trailers and mobile homes into permanent housing.