More than a year after displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina first said that formaldehyde in government-issued travel trailers was making them sick, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has arranged for air quality testing to begin this week.
FEMA has arranged for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct tests for formaldehyde in a random sampling of 500 of the 46,000 travel trailers still being used by hurricane victims more than two years after the August 29, 2005, hurricane made landfall, nearly destroying New Orleans and leaving devastation across hundreds of miles of the Gulf Coast region.
CDC will conduct testing beginning this Friday and continuing for the next five weeks, according to a government press release. Afterward, each resident whose travel trailer was tested will receive the results for that trailer and FEMA will issue a final report in May.
Formaldehyde, a common chemical used in many wood products as well as embalming, has been linked to cancer and respiratory problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet the CDC says it has no guidelines on how much formaldehyde is dangerous.
Henry Falk, director of the CDC’s Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention, said there are no existing standards for gauging air quality in trailers and “no sharp, direct way” of predicting the health effects of formaldehyde.
“Some people will react at higher levels. Some people might react to formaldehyde at lower levels,” he told reporters in New Orleans. — Associated Press
“FEMA’s first priority has been and continues to be the health and safety of temporary housing residents,” said FEMA Administrator David “Duct Tape” Paulison.
Testing had been postponed until this month because “we wanted to make sure we had a test that was scientifically based, that we had a credible agency that really understood formaldehyde to come in and do this,” said FEMA Administrator David Paulison. — USA TODAY
The real reason testing was postponed was FEMA’s lawyers stonewalled for a whole year, preventing the agency from doing anything to mitigate the threat, not even testing the trailers. Because they care so much about helping people.
Since then FEMA has been moving anyone out of travel trailers who complains about formaldehyde and asks to move. More than 6,500 people have such outstanding requests, but FEMA has been able to move only 800 people a week. And requests to move continue to come in.
And here is another problem. After two years, why is anyone still living in a travel trailer? I can’t imagine not wanting to do something to better my circumstances in two whole years. Yet, with government offering to pay for whatever people ask, and not asking too many questions about what they do with the money, it’s easy for disaster victims to become dependent on the government to provide for their every need for as long as they can get away with it.