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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

trailer salesman getting very sick

I just started a new job working for a RV center as a salesman. Although I have worked in sales for many years, I am new to this business. Having just completed my first week. I'm very worried about the fumes and orders inside the trailers and RVs. I'm really troubled by my burning eyes and throat. I am pretty certain it is caused by the strong nasty odors trapped inside the trailers. They come from the manufacture and are left locked up tight as a drum at all times except when we go in to show them. Therefore they are really hot and humid inside and the air inside them really smells nasty.

I have just completed my first week of training. I spend lots of time going inside new travel trailers studying the features so I can present them for sale to customers. There are many different features and sizes and floor plans, but they all have one thing in common. They have a very strong odor that is hard to take! Every day I go in them and every night when I get home I really notice I am having more and more problems with burning eyes and throat. Last night I woke up short of breath and sweating... I have never had any problems like this at work before. I am a healthy man. I don't smoke but I am concerned that I could have damaged my health already. I would like to keep this job if at all possible. The people are nice and there is potential to make a good living here.

Being located on the gulf coast, it is very hot and humid here. It often rains here so the company will not allow the windows or doors to be left opened on any of the trailers. It is so hot inside them that I can only stay inside for a few minutes (5-10) at a time. I feel faint and am wringing wet by the time I come out.

I am very concerned. I need this job so much but am worried about my health. I have just read one of the articles here that stated that heat and humidity amplify the affect of the exposure to these toxic fumes.

I am writing this at 4:30 in the morning because I woke up in a sweat and have a sore throat and burning eyes and shortness of breath. Will I become tolerant of these fumes or am I putting my life at risk working in this position? Who can advise me? Is there anything I can do besides quit? I like my job but I don't know if I am putting myself and others at risk by doing it. Please advise!



Dear B.J.: You are having the clear symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning. I can tell you that this problem has not been "fixed" even though the levels of formaldehyde were considered high enough earlier this year for FEMA to move everyone out of FEMA housing (although thousands of families decided to stay in the only home they have). The government has still failed to adopt any formaldehyde standards to protect people.

Trailer manufacturers testified in Congress they have been using the same materials and manufacturing processes for years. They evidently don't see the need to change anything.

We've been testing new travel trailers, and at least with the ones we are getting complaints about and testing, they have VERY HIGH formaldehyde levels. Some are testing at over .4 ppm or 400 parts per billion.

You are getting especially high levels because you are going into new trailers without air conditioning. The formaldehyde levels could be off the chart--above what OSHA would recommend even for short term exposure.

I know it is a tough decision, but if I were you, I would try to find a job that doesn't make you sick now and raise your risk of cancer long term. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning. And you have to recognize that you are selling a toxic product to people. That can't make you sleep well at night, either.

Becky Gillette
Formaldehyde Campaign Director
Sierra Club