Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CDC/FEMA Meetings Across Louisiana This Week to Discuss Testing and a Study on Formaldehyde Levels in FEMA Trailers

Last night FEMA and the CDC hosted a meeting in Baker, Louisiana, to address the testing of FEMA trailers and a recent study on formaldehyde levels entitled "CDC Public Availability Session about the Air Quality Testing in FEMA-Supplied Trailers and Mobile Homes." This meeting followed closely in the footsteps of FEMA's Valentine's Day announcement that all Gulf Coast residents would have to be out of their FEMA trailers by Summer 2008 due to health dangers from high levels of formaldehyde present in the trailers.

After doing a very poor job to publicize the meeting (most residents found out about the meeting on the news yesterday morning) and announcing the time and location of the meeting to the community only the night before, there were only about 60 residents from four trailer parks in the area. There were, however, also about 5 news stations present, reporters from 5-6 newspapers and various attorneys who represent FEMA trailer residents in lawsuits on the formaldehyde issue.

Michael McGeehin, a medical doctor who works for the CDC, presented his findings on the testings and study that was conducted in December 2007 and January 2008 to assess levels of formaldehyde in travel trailers supplied by FEMA and possible health affects. The key findings he presented included:

• In many trailers, mobile homes, and park models tested, formaldehyde levels were elevated relative to typical levels of US indoor exposure.

• Average levels of formaldehyde in all units was about 77 parts per billion (ppb). This level is higher than US background levels. Levels measured ranged from 3 ppb to 590 ppb.

• These measured levels are likely to under-represent long-term exposures since formaldehyde levels tend to be higher in newer travel trailers and mobile homes and during warmer weather.

• Indoor temperature was a significant factor for formaldehyde levels in this study independent of trailer make or model.

• Formaldehyde levels varied by model (mobile homes, park homes, and travel trailers), but all types of trailers tested had some high levels.

• At the levels seen in many trailers, health could be affected.

After Mr. McGeehin presented his findings, he was flooded with angry questions from the residents concerning access to medical care immediately, housing and long term health affects. The many FEMA representatives who were present at the meeting refused to make a statement at the podium and residents were directed to speak with them in private at the side tables set up for that purpose. Mr. McGeehin also told residents that there were doctors and medical staff present from the CDC who would speak to individual residents about their health problems.

The CDC presented the following recommendations for public health officials pursuant to its study:
• The conclusions support the need to move quickly to relocate trailer residents before the warmer weather of summer, placing highest priority on those who are symptomatic and/or especially vulnerable.
• Appropriate follow-up will require multi-agency collaboration including FEMA, HUD, CDC, and others, to achieve safe, healthy housing for people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who continue to live in FEMA-supplied travel trailers and mobile homes.
• FEMA should consider necessary assistance to Louisiana and Mississippi Health Departments to ensure adequate follow-up, including medical needs, for trailer residents with health and medical concerns resulting from residence in FEMA-supplied travel trailers or mobile homes and formaldehyde exposure.
• FEMA should consider establishing a registry and long-term health monitoring of children and others who resided in FEMA-supplied travel trailers and mobile homes in the Gulf Coast Region.

The CDC and FEMA are holding several other similar meetings across Louisiana over the next few days. We recommend that you attend these meetings and ask the officials hard-hitting questions about existing medical care for trailer residents, long term health affects of formaldehyde, especially in pregnant women and children, FEMA’s plans for housing the 100,000 residents that are soon to be evicted from their FEMA trailers etc.

Tuesday, Feb. 26, noon to 2 p.m., St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church (2300 Crowder Blvd.)

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., St. Anna's Episcopal Church (1313 Esplanade Ave.)

Wednesday, Feb. 27, noon to 2 p.m., Nunez Community College Auditorium (3700 Fenelon St., Chalmette)

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Joseph S. Yenni Government Building (1221 Elmwood Park Blvd., Second Floor Council Chambers, Jefferson)

Thursday, Feb. 28, noon to 2 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center (900 Lakeshore Drive, Contraband Room, Lake Charles)

Thursday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Lake Charles Civic Center (900 Lakeshore Drive, Contraband Room, Lake Charles)

The KatrinaRitaVille Express was present at the meeting last night and will be present at many of the other meetings in Louisiana and Mississippi this week.

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