WASHINGTON - An investigation by congressional Democrats shows the Federal Emergency Management Agency manipulated scientific research in order to play down the danger posed by formaldehyde in trailers issued to hurricane victims. Several thousand trailers are stored by FEMA at the airport in Hope, Arkansas.
A letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the study released yesterday said FEMA ignored, hid and manipulated government research on the potential impact of long-term exposure to formaldehyde on hurricane victims now living in FEMA trailers. The letter from Democrats on a House Science and Technology subcommittee was sent to Chertoff because FEMA is part of the Homeland Security Department.
Victims living in FEMA trailers have complained of health problems related to formaldehyde, but initial FEMA tests revealed the air quality in the trailers was safe if those trailers were properly ventilated. Formaldehyde is a common preservative found in building materials used in manufactured homes. It can cause respiratory problems and has been classified as a carcinogen.