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Banned FEMA Trailers Used to House BP Oil Spill Workers


Venice,LA: Trailer homes originally used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to house people following Hurricane Katrina, and that were subsequently banned from being used as long-term housing due to illegal levels of formaldehyde, are resurfacing as housing for workers involved in the BP oil spill disaster.

The trailers, which the government was reportedly paying $130 million to store, are finding their way into mobile home parks, boatyards and open fields through contracting firms who need to house their workers near the Gulf coast. They are reportedly being sold for $2,500 up, making them appear a reasonable solution to an urgent need for accommodation in the region due to the catastrophe.

Following hurricane Katrina in August 2005, hundreds of people were housed in the trailers but many subsequently complained of breathing problems, burning eyes, noses and throats. In June 2006, one man was found dead in his trailer – he had complained about formaldehyde fumes in his trailer.

Formaldehyde is an industrial chemical associated with nasal cancer. Furthermore, it can aggravate respiratory problems and may be linked to leukemia. In 2005/2006, following consumer complaints, it was found to be present in many of the trailer units in amounts that exceeded federal limits. Scientists subsequently determined that the high levels of formaldehyde likely came from cheap wood and poor ventilation. The government replaced the units, stored the original ones and placed a ban on using them for housing.

"The trailers are "not intended to be used as housing," David Garratt, FEMA's associate administrator for mission support told the New York Times. "Subsequent owners must continue to similarly inform subsequent buyers for the life of the unit."

However, reports indicate that clean-up workers and their families currently living in the trailers now may not be aware that the units are not supposed to be used for housing, and that people selling the trailers may not be informing the buyers about the ban.

The New York Times is reporting more than 100,000 of the trailers have so far been sold in public auctions. Notably, dozens of companies and individuals that have purchased the trailers are located in Louisiana.

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Published on Jul-1-10


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