July 9, 2008
Contact: Oliver Bernstein, 512.477.2152
Sierra Club Applauds Congressional Oversight on Toxic FEMA Trailers
Stronger Formaldehyde Standards, Disaster Response Keys to Protecting Communities
Statement of Becky Gillette, formaldehyde campaign director for the Sierra Club, in response to today's U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on toxic Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers:
"We are very thankful that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating why formaldehyde levels were particularly high in FEMA housing purchased from the four manufacturers who have been called to testify. We hope that this hearing will determine what role imported wood products played in creating this problem by allowing poor quality materials to threaten people’s health.
“Sierra Club began testing FEMA trailers in March 2006 and immediately found widespread formaldehyde contamination. But those findings were largely ignored by FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until the House Oversight Committee held its first hearing in 2007. Two weeks ago, in response to petition from Sierra Club, 24 other organizations and more than 5,000 individuals from all 50 states, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to conduct a four-part investigation of formaldehyde in homes, schools and offices.
“The Sierra Club has received complaints about indoor formaldehyde air contamination from across the country, and not just from people in emergency housing. Recent Sierra Club testing has shown high formaldehyde levels in 2008 recreational vehicles (RVs) as well as RVs dating back to 2002. Testing has also found high formaldehyde levels in some manufactured apartment housing and in temporary classrooms.
“Congress has shown leadership in investigating the formaldehyde tragedy that has left many natural disaster victims facing illnesses at a time when they are still struggling to recover financially from losing everything. We now call on Congress to require the EPA to adopt national standards that protect all people—not just those in emergency housing—from toxic levels of formaldehyde.
“Clearly, it is far past time for a formaldehyde fix in this country. We’ve known for decades how toxic formaldehyde can be, and now it is time to resolve this problem once and for all. Japan, Europe and China all have stronger formaldehyde regulations than the U.S. American families deserve the same protections.”
As the first organization to discover the toxicity of FEMA trailers, the Sierra Club has taken a lead role in fighting for better disaster assistance and emergency housing. Testing by the Sierra Club in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama showed that 88 percent of trailers tested in 2006 and 2007 had formaldehyde levels above the EPA's recommended limit. Many FEMA trailer residents reported not being able to stay in their trailers for more than five minutes without experiencing irritated eyes, breathing problems, headaches, nausea or skin rashes. Visit www.sierraclub.org/gulfcoast for more information.