Recent Environmental Protection Agency testing of FEMA trailers reveals higher average levels of formaldehyde than was originally found by Sierra Club testing last year. EPA testing showed unventilated trailers were 12 times the EPA limit, and that even if the trailers were fully ventilated, toxic levels in the trailers would still be three times the EPA limits.
Mississippi Sierra Club Vice Chairwoman Becky Gillette, who supervised Sierra Club testing of FEMA trailers in the summer of 2006 and again this year, said she was furious at the news.
"FEMA's advice to ventilate obviously doesn't reduce formaldehyde to safe levels. And it is ridiculous to tell people in the hot humid South to keep the air conditioner running and windows open at the same time," Gillette said. "If they just ventilate, and it is humid outside, that can actually increase formaldehyde outgasing."
The federal government paid close to $3 billion to private contractors for the purchase and upkeep of almost 150,000 formaldehyde-laced travel trailers for storm victims after the catastrophic hurricanes of 2005.
Lindsey Huckabee, of Kiln, Miss., is a stay-at-home mom who has been living in one of the trailers since December 2005 with her husband and five children. "As it gets warmer, our symptoms seem to intensify—the nosebleeds, the asthma. It's coming back," Huckabee said.
Huckabee added that her family is still in the trailer only because banks turned down her husband for home loans due to his recent unemployment, which was caused by Katrina.