After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA purchased about 102,000 travel trailers at a cost of $2.6 billion to house the victims of the nation’s largest natural disaster. It turns out that the vast majority of these trailers have excessive levels of formaldehyde. See the results of testing done by the CDC that were announced Feb. 29, 2008 at the website http://cdc.gov/nceh/ehhe/trailerstudy/ or just Google CDC formaldehyde FEMA study. This website also has links to information for residents and health care practitioners.
From the very beginning people who received FEMA trailers after Katrina reported experiencing problems such as irritated eyes, breathing problems, bloody noses, headaches, nausea, frequent respiratory infections and skin rashes. We know one family that moved from the FEMA trailer into a storage shed on their property because their daughter threw up every time she spent any time in the trailer. Another man sleeping in his driveway next to his trailer said, “My FEMA trailer is killing me!” One couple experienced such heavy chest congestion combined with nose bleeds that they abandoned their FEMA trailer to sleep in their truck.
The CDC testing confirmed three earlier rounds of testing done by Sierra Club in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama in 2006 and 2007 with test kits from Advanced Chemical Sensors. Out of 69 tests, 61 were over 0.1 ppm which represents 88 percent of the trailers tested. The tests used 0.1 ppm as the concentration above which health impacts are expected. However, much lower levels are recommended for long-term exposure. The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) Minimal Risk Levels are 0.04 ppm for 1-14 days, 0.03 for 14-364 days and 0.008 ppm for 365 or more days exposure. The lowest of the 69 Sierra Club tests was 0.04. The highest test was 0.39.
As you will see by reading the blogs on this page, the formaldehyde problem is not confined to just RVs and mobile homes purchased by FEMA. Manufacturers state that they didn't do anything differently for RVs and mobile homes sold to FEMA than those sold to the general public. People across the country are reporting formaldehyde problems in not just campers and manufactured housing, but regular homes, offices, churches and schools.
For an in-depth look at this issue including how FEMA and the ATSDR tried to coverup the problem rather than respond to a major public health disaster, see the hearing transcript from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1413.