A federal inspector general released a report Thursday slamming FEMA for failing to address the formaldehyde problems in the mobile trailers they provided to Hurricane Katrina victims.
The 80-page report claims that FEMA declined to address the matter in a timely fashion being overly concerned with its already tainted public image. The report says FEMA withdrew the formaldehyde health threat only after media attention “grew to disturbing levels” and even postponed testing to “develop a public communications strategy,” according to CNN.
While federal tests found formaldehyde in their emergency housing units just two months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped through the South East, most of the tests weren’t performed until two years later and in the winter, when formaldehyde levels are at their lowest, the report says.
“Because of the delays, the test results may have underestimated the extent of formaldehyde exposure that residents had experienced,” it says.
Almost immediately after 200,000 trailers were provided to displaced Katrina victims, residents began to encounter health problems likely due to the toxic, strong-smelling gas that officials believe causes cancer.
Shortly after the hurricanes in October of 2005, federal officials advised government workers to limit their time in the trailers, however, the same advisory was not extended to the trailer residents.
In the report, the inspector general acknowledges FEMA’s efforts to address the problem.
“FEMA officials did make some attempts to identify the extent of the formaldehyde problem, but they did so by trying to get an accurate tally of complaints from occupants rather than testing occupied units,” the report says.
Richard Skinner, the inspector general who released the report, for the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is FEMA’s parent department.
In the report, FEMA officials said the document “does not adequately emphasize the compelling fact that there were no established formaldehyde standards for travel trailers.” The inspector general agreed that there is a lack of standards.
FEMA spokesman, Clark Stevens made a statement Thursday and said he “agrees with the Inspector General’s findings” and has already made considerable strides in establishing policies and actions to address growing concerns about formaldehyde emissions.
“As a result, FEMA and our partners are far better positioned to respond to the temporary housing needs of disaster survivors than we were several years ago.”
FEMA is now performing third-party tests to ensure the air quality in mobile housing units comply with new specifications.
How convenient, several years later and minus a Bush and they are more equipped to handle the situation. Now let’s see if FEMA will help provide health care for anyone that reports any cancerous health claims after living in these death traps.