15 February 2008

FEMA's Greatest Hits

From the AP: FEMA rushes to find temporary housing for 35,000(!) Gulf Coast residents afflicted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Wait. Didn't FEMA already rush to find temporary housing? Like two-and-a-half years ago, after the hurricanes hit?

It seems once wasn't enough. Now the problem involves toxic levels of formaldehyde in trailers that were provided to displaced hurricane survivors.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency came under new withering criticism Thursday after tests found dangerous levels of formaldehyde fumes in many of the trailers the agency used to house hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi.


FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison said Thursday the agency would rush to find temporary housing for roughly 35,000 families now in its trailers. "We're moving as fast as we can," he said.

It turns out FEMA has known about the high formaldehyde levels since at least the summer of 2006, when the Sierra Club conducted independent tests on 44 units and found formaldehyde rates "nearly equal to what a professional embalmer would be exposed to on the job."

The CDC and the EPA got involved, but, according to the FEMA website, findings of an initial round of air tests suggested that "ventilating the units is effective in reducing levels of formaldehyde." It wasn't until the following year, July, 2007, that FEMA announced a longer range study, to be conducted by the CDC. That study began in December, 2007, and the results were delivered yesterday.