Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | July 16, 2010

Toxic trailers back in the gulf

Remember those FEMA trailers that displaced community members across the Gulf Coast were living in after Hurricane Katrina? Well a number of them were found to contain formaldehyde leaving residents with headaches, nausea, and burning throats. In the long term, the Environmental Protection Agency classifies formaldehyde is a suspected human carcinogen.

After much public pressure from the National Council of Churches and other concerned organizations, FEMA had to stop housing residents in these trailers and they were banned from long terms housing in the future. However, it looks as if they weren’t banned forever.

According to the New York Times article on July 1st, FEMA was storing those trailers at a hefty sum and decided to start selling them in 2006. According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration went through with the sale just a month before the oil spill. Now the trailers are housing oil spill cleanup workers. For workers, this means that they are not only being exposed to the oil and dispersant mixtures everyday, but they are also being exposed to a likely human carcinogen. Is it no wonder that residents on the Gulf Coast do not want FEMA to come in and take over the disaster relief in the Gulf?

It is disgraceful that anyone ever inhabit these trailers that left one man dead after complaining for some time about the fumes and many others feeling sick. These trailers should be dismantled and their toxic pieces properly disposed of. Their reuse now just adds insult to injury for people that are already going through so much suffering due to the oil disaster.

The formaldehyde trailers are also yet another example of our failed chemical policy. If we had a policy that ensured that chemicals were not harmful to human health and tested before they end up in our products, then there never would have been formaldehyde in those trailers in the first place and people wouldn’t be bearing the health costs of indoor formaldehyde exposure.

Last week we, along with interfaith and state-based organizations released an Interfaith Statement for Chemical Policy Reform. We also called on Congress to reform our chemical policies to protect God’s Creation and vulnerable populations. Read it and consider adding your name to it  here.

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