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FEMA trailers contaminated by toxic formaldehyde



Trailers used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are contaminated by high levels of formaldehyde, a cancer-causing gas.

FEMA knew of the toxic gas but rejected further tests even after a man died in one of the trailers. The agency was being sued and a lawyer said tests could undermine the government's position in court.

But on the eve of a House hearing on Thursday, FEMA reversed course and said it would conduct more tests. The agency's stance drew complaints from Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

It also has drawn a concerned letter from Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), who has pressed FEMA to donate leftover trailers to tribes in order to address housing conditions on reservations. He asked the agency to ensure the trailers are safe for long term habitation [Press Release].

A field test of one trailer showed formaldehyde levels at 75 times the recommended workplace threshold. The gas can cause cancer and lead to vision and respiratory problems.

Get the Story:
FEMA Knew Of Toxic Gas In Trailers (The Washington Post 7/20)
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FEMA Faulted on Response to Risks in Trailers (The New York Times 7/20)
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Johnson asks for safe trailers (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 7/20)

House Hearing:
Committee Probes FEMA's Response to Reports of Toxic Trailers (July 19, 2007)

Related Stories:
FEMA rejects Sen. Johnson's request to help tribes (05/22)
Editorial: Send FEMA trailers to Indian Country (04/26)
Sen. Johnson wanta FEMA homes sent to tribes (4/25)