ToxicTrailers.com was launched after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the government spent more than $2 billion on FEMA trailers with high levels of formaldehyde that sickened thousands of people. The FEMA trailer tragedy exposed what is a widespread problem in RVs, mobile homes, modular buildings and even conventional buildings that use pressed wood products. Unfortunately, as we approach the tenth anniversary of Katrina, formaldehyde regulations are not being enforced in the U.S., and people's health is at risk. If you are having burning eyes, congestion, sore throat, coughing, breathing difficulties, frequent sinus infections or rashes, and difficulties concentrating, you may have a formaldehyde problem. For questions or to share your story, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Read this blog by Tom Neltner with Environment Defense Fund for more information about how the new formaldehyde rule works: EPA Closes Loophole in California Rules for Formaldehyde in Wood Products By TOM NELTNER | Published: AUGUST 16, 2016 Tom Neltner, J.D., is Chemicals Policy Director On July 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a long-overdue final rule to protect people from formaldehyde off-gassing from composite wood products such as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard. These products are commonly used to make furniture, cabinets, and flooring. Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) directed EPA to issue the rule and base it on the 2007 standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) with a significant exception; EPA closed a loophole in CARB’s standards by extending them to cover laminated hardwood products. Such laminated products were the focus of the Lumber Liquidators controversy in 2014. EPA effectively threaded a needle between the legitimate interests of small furniture and cabinet manufacturers and the need to protect people from the risks posed by formaldehyde. The final rule includes changes from the proposed rule to address concerns that compliance would have been difficult for small businesses that glue a thin layer of wood veneer (a process called lamination) to composite boards that themselves comply with the rule. EPA concluded it needed to close CARB’s loophole when studies showed that laminating operations (which CARB had exempted) release formaldehyde in excess of the CARB emission standards. EPA’s rule gives laminators using most formaldehyde adhesives seven years to get into compliance. See the rest at http://blogs.edf.org/health/2016/08/16/epa-formaldehyde-rule/
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Good overview of EPA's new formaldehyde rule: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/legal-battles-spark-epa-to-set-emission-standards-for-composite-wood-products/PARAMS/article/41115 Legal battles spark EPA to set emission standards for composite wood products by Marilyn Odendahl August 10, 2016 Nearly 11 years after the survivors of Hurricane Katrina began blaming their FEMA trailers for their health problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new rule addressing what is believed to have been the main cause of their suffering — formaldehyde. The final rule, announced July 27, limits the emissions of formaldehyde vapors for composite wood products used to make kitchen cabinets, furniture and flooring. Motivated in part by the high levels of fumes found in many of the recreational vehicles shipped to the Gulf Coast after the 2005 hurricane, the new standards are touted as protecting the public from harmful exposure to the chemical. Formaldehyde in the RVs sent to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas to provide temporary housing for displaced residents spawned a series of class actions. Manufacturers, many in northern Indiana, and the contractors who installed the units were named in the slew of complaints. epa-rv-15col.jpg RV makers in Elkhart County adopted lower emissions standards after being named in a series of class-action lawsuits. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Spence/RV Business) Similar class actions have been filed against the national retailer Lumber Liquidators with consumers alleging the business deceived them about the level of formaldehyde in laminate flooring boards. The complaints over the RVs have been settled but the lawsuits against Lumber Liquidators continue. Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the EPA did a “really good job” of creating a new rule that does not overburden small businesses but still protects the public. “If we had had this rule in place, we wouldn’t have had the problem that led to the FEMA trailers,” he said. Regulating emissions Through the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, Congress limited the off-gassing from products like plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard. The Act adopted the lower formaldehyde standards established by the California Air Resources Board for products sold, supplied, used or manufactured for sale in that state. Typically, the formaldehyde is in the resin that binds the chips and fibers together in the composite wood products. It is also in the resin used to attach a veneer to some composites. The emission standards range from 0.05 part per million of formaldehyde for hardwood plywood to 0.13 part per million for thin medium-density fiberboard, according to the EPA. By comparison, FEMA testing determined the mean formaldehyde reading in the Katrina RVs was 0.077 ppm, with levels ranging between 0.003 ppm and 0.59 ppm, according to a 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General. However, New Orleans attorney M. Palmer Lambert, one of the attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the class actions, said the FEMA test results underestimated the level of exposure. By the time the agency began testing in late 2007, the fumes had dissipated. The DHS report seems to support that contention. It noted early testing done by the local Sierra Club which found only two of 31 trailers testing at or below 0.1 ppm. Also readings taken by Occupational Safety and Health Administration on 100 FEMA trailers in Mississippi found the levels of fumes reaching 0.28 ppm to 0.59 ppm. The EPA maintains exposure to 0.1 ppm and above will cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the nose and throat, nausea and coughing. The EPA considers exposure to 0.9 ppm or above for more than eight hours in a lifetime is “dangerous,” and says high levels of exposure may cause some types of cancer. Attorneys connected to the RV industry declined to comment on the new rule. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association said its member manufacturers do not expect the rule to impact their operations. RV makers began using wood products that complied with the CARB standard in 2009. Veneer loophole Among other things, the new federal rule closes a loophole that was in the CARB standard, Neltner said. Specifically, the state policy did not regulate laminated wood products, which freed the veneer applicators from having to use glue that complied. Under the EPA rule, laminated woods must meet the new standards by 2024. This puts pressure on the adhesive manufacturers to develop a resin that uses less formaldehyde. Although some formaldehyde-free glues are already on the market, Neltner said manufactures do not use them because they can discolor the veneer. Environmental activist and freelance journalist Becky Gillette is happy the federal government has finally clamped down on formaldehyde. Manufacturers will now have to adhere to an emissions law where previously no air quality standard existed, which left consumers with little recourse. Still she worries about the EPA’s ability to enforce the new emission limits. The agency’s funding has been a favorite target of Congressional budget cuts. Toxins after Katrina As the former chair of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club, Gillette worked in the mess left behind by Katrina. Fielding calls and hearing stories about people living in the RVs suffering from nosebleeds, respiratory problems, headaches and a few who had new cancer diagnoses, she led the effort to test the air inside the units. In its report, the DHS faulted the response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the formaldehyde crisis. Indications of possible formaldehyde problems first surfaced in October 2005, but FEMA did not begin testing the RVs until December 2007. The class action filed by roughly 55,000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas against the RV manufacturers and FEMA contractors was settled in 2012 for just under $43 million. Attorney fees were expected to gobble up to 48 percent, leaving plaintiffs with just a few hundred dollars each on average. Lambert said the plaintiffs were hindered by the late testing of the indoor air quality of the RVs. Proving the levels exceeded accepted health standards was difficult because the readings were taken after the levels had decreased significantly. Consequently, the experts disagreed whether the health problems could be linked to exposure to formaldehyde. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, attorney James Percy represented the manufacturers in the settlement conference with the plaintiffs. He did not return a call seeking comment. Customers feeling deceived The multidistrict litigation pending against Lumber Liquidators will not be affected by the new rule. In that suit, consumers claim the retailer falsely labeled wood flooring as being compliant with CARB standards. Lumber Liquidators filed a motion for summary judgment Aug. 1, asserting the plaintiffs cannot show they were deceived. A call to Lumber Liquidators was not returned. Cohen & Malad LLP was among the firms that filed complaints against the retailer. Lynn Toops, partner at the Indianapolis firm, said the rule is an important first step because it recognizes how serious formaldehyde emissions are. “I’m happy to see there is something being done at the national level so that California no longer has the unique title of being the only state addressing this issue,” she said. Despite the long fight over formaldehyde, Gillette doubts the new rule will get much attention. And she noted complaints are still surfacing among mobile home owners even though the Department of Housing and Urban Development imposed emission standards on the manufactured housing industry in the 1980s. Her view of formaldehyde remains unchanged. “There is no safe level,” she said.•
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
http://eureka.news/epa-comes-down-on-formaldehyde-in-wood-finally/ EPA comes down on formaldehyde in wood – finally August 3, 2016 After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, more than 100,000 families on the Gulf Coast were displaced from and living in FEMA trailers. It only took one whiff for some people to decide it was better to camp out in the driveway. The fumes from formaldehyde off-gassing from pressed wood products were so strong in some FEMA trailers that people couldn’t stay in them for 15 minutes without burning eyes, headaches, coughing and difficulty breathing. The news about what was causing the bad odors broke when Paul Stewart got a FEMA trailer. His wife, Melanie, woke up in the middle of the night with a nosebleed gasping for air. The Stewarts used an inexpensive test for formaldehyde testing that showed very high levels of formaldehyde in the trailer. After the Stewart’s experience, we got funding from the Sierra Club to test more FEMA trailers. By then it was common knowledge on the Coast that some of the trailers weren’t fit to live in. Many people had what was known as “trailer cough” or “Katrina crud.” Our citizen testing program showed nine out of ten trailers exceeded safe levels of formaldehyde. FEMA kept denying there was any problem. Finally, FEMA decided to have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) test for formaldehyde. When FEMA sat on the test results, it was a red flag. I teamed up with an ABC News producer to do a Freedom of Information Act request for the test results. On the same day FEMA released those test results to us, they announced that testing had shown high formaldehyde levels. Later they offered to relocate trailer residents. While the formaldehyde problems were particularly acute in the most recently manufactured FEMA trailers, we learned the problem was not unique to FEMA trailers. Formaldehyde could be high in not just most commercially available travel trailers, but also in manufactured homes or any home that used a lot of pressed wood products. Testing done years before showed high levels of formaldehyde in temporary classrooms in California. In 2008 I testified in Congress about our testing results. Several of the people who had lived in FEMA trailers, including Paul Stewart, also testified. In 2010, Congress passed legislation requiring EPA to adopt regulations for formaldehyde in pressed wood products. On July 27, more than a decade after the hurricanes, EPA issued a final rule to protect people from formaldehyde in wood products. While it certainly should have happened years sooner, this was progress. The safeguard will require manufacturers to follow what is essentially California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde standards. This action will level the field between multinational manufacturers and American manufacturers that already take steps to reduce formaldehyde emissions to meet CARB standards. The EPA’s new rule makes CARB standards more enforceable. It also sets strong impartiality requirements for the third parties that certify compliance at facilities around the world. Lumber Liquidators, the nation’s leading hardwood flooring retailer, was recently exposed by 60 Minutes for selling flooring stamped CARB-compliant that was not, in fact, in compliance. Tom Neltner, an attorney and engineer who is a Sierra Club volunteer with the formaldehyde campaign, thinks it took the Lumber Liquidators scandal to finally get the rule issued from EPA. “The EPA did a great job on the final rule and worked from the proposals from the Sierra Club and other non-government organizations to craft a rule that protects public health and minimizes burden on small business,” Neltner said. “It’s good to see us reach this major milestone.” However, don’t think this means you are safe from formaldehyde exposure. While many American manufacturers are producing pressed wood products that are lower in formaldehyde than in the past, there is no safe level of exposure to this cancer-causing chemical. What we really need is to stop using formaldehyde glues at all now that safer soy-based alternatives are available. You can get formaldehyde-free Columbia Forest Products plywood at Home Depot. We also need formaldehyde testing of indoor air before any home, classroom or office is occupied, something that is done in other countries. One irony of the new rule is that the least protected housing is still going to small spaces like travel trailers that use a lot of composite wood. If you decide to buy a travel trailer, in particular, you can buy the kind of test kit we used for $60 from American Chemical Sensors (www.acsbadge.com/formaldehyde.shtml). For ten years now, I have taken e-mails and calls from people around the U.S. who were being poisoned by formaldehyde in indoor air while putting that information on the website www.toxictrailers.com. One of the biggest scandals is that after FEMA finally admitted formaldehyde levels were excessive in FEMA trailers, they sold them at auction with a sticker on them that said, “Not to be used for human occupancy.” Of course, the trailers sold at auction for a tiny amount compared to what taxpayers paid for them did end up being used housing. The stickers were removed. In one case I know of, they were even used for HUD housing. Make no mistake. This chemical does cause cancer, which is only one of the health effects of exposure. Excess formaldehyde exposure costs lives. I dedicate this column to the people I worked with living in FEMA trailers whose deaths I believe were either caused or hastened by high formaldehyde levels: Mickey Kissiah, Hilda McGee, Desiree Collins, Jennifer Donelson’s baby Wesley, who suffered many seizures before he died, and newborn baby, Martin. Share this: