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.
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: