About ToxicTrailers.com

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 4becky@cox.net.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

House Science and Technology Committee hearing

We are very thankful that the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing April 1 Toxic Trailers: Have the Centers for Disease Control Failed to Protect Public Health? A tremendous amount of good information came out of the hearing, and you can access the lengthy written testimony at http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2133.

We need strong national standards for indoor formaldehyde and a full investigation as to how FEMA and the CDC failed to protect the health of the most vulnerable Americans. Emergency housing should protect disaster victims and not expose them to further danger.

Sierra Club began testing FEMA trailers in April 2006 and immediately found widespread formaldehyde contamination. It took CDC until October 2007--more than two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita--to publicly communicate the true threat of formaldehyde and the elevated levels that EPA testing had found. That was two years in which tens of thousands of families were exposed to this toxic gas. People with pre-existing conditions like asthma were finding it hard to breathe. Mothers were waking up in the middle of the night to give breathing treatments to their children. FEMA and CDC showed an appalling lack of urgency and a callous disregard for the health of FEMA trailer residents.

It is particularly important that the House Committee has now sent a second letter to protect whistleblower Dr. Chris DeRosa, who testified at the hearing. This is a press release on that issue:

(Washington, DC) Yesterday, in conjunction with the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on an investigation into the toxic FEMA trailers put in place after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, senior Committee Members sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Julie Gerberding, asking that she suspend all personnel actions against Dr. Chris De Rosa and return him to his post as Director of the Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine within the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The letter was signed by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Subcommittee Chairmen Brad Miller (D-NC) (Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight) and Nick Lampson (D-TX) (Subcommittee on Energy and Environment).

Dr. Chris De Rosa is described in the letter as being “instrumental in revealing the massive failings in ATSDR’s erroneous and completely unsubstantiated conclusion last February that the formaldehyde levels in trailers used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita” did not pose a health risk for occupants. De Rosa, who was removed from his post in the wake of repeated clashes with ATSDR managers over toxic trailers and other matters, also testified at an Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee hearing yesterday on this matter.

The letter reads, in part, “This appears to be a classic ‘shoot-the-messenger’ response from an agency which our investigation has shown to have engaged in a scientific and management fiasco at the highest levels. Even when top management became aware of the problems with the original health consultation [on formaldehyde in trailers], it compounded this public health disaster by further inaction, foot-dragging and passing the buck in every direction except where it belongs—in the offices of the top leadership of ATSDR and CDC.”

“By this letter, we are asking that you immediately suspend the implementation of Dr. De Rosa’s Personal Improvement Plan and return Dr. De Rosa to his previous position, which he held successfully for many years. We also ask that you arrange a personal meeting to explain the conduct of your agency regarding Dr. De Rosa and how you intend to improve that record.”, and requesting he be reinstated in his position.