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FEMA discovered in early 2006 that some trailers contained formaldehyde gas 75 times the levels recommended for a safe workplace. When FEMA officials learned of the problem, they stopped testing and turtled up — pulling their heads inside the shell of the bureaucracy and doing nothing.
The agency didn’t test because its lawyers said that testing might increase FEMA’s liability. When people complained about formaldehyde fumes, FEMA essentially told them to open the windows.
There are still families waiting for their share of good luck. Some 66,000 families still live in temporary housing, including some of the gassy FEMA trailers. A score of these residents have sued trailer makers. At a congressional hearing yesterday, people who lived in the FEMA trailers “described frequent nosebleeds, respiratory problems and mysterious mouth and nasal tumors that they or family members have suffered. They also said veterinarians and pediatricians have warned that their pets and children may be experiencing formaldehyde related symptoms," according to the Post.
FEMA director R. David Paulison told a Congressional panel that, in “hindsight," his agency should have tested the trailers earlier.