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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Withdrawn FEMA Trailers Reappear in Gulf Disaster

After 120,000 trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were found to have unacceptable levels of formaldehyde and banned from use after Hurricane Katrina, their reappearance as housing for Gulf Oil Spill cleanup workers has raised some alarm. The trailers have apparently been seen in trailer parks, fields, and boat yards as thousands of people look for housing while helping clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The defective FEMA trailers were sold off by the government agency to hundreds of companies and individuals after they were withdrawn from use. Many of the companies who purchased the trailers are disaster contracting firms, and many of them are headquartered in the South, particularly Texas and Louisiana. FEMA requires that placards be posted on the trailers informing users of the risk of formaldehyde and that the trailers should not be used for housing. However, reporters from the New York Times state the placards are missing from the trailers being used by at least one company based out of Texarkana, Texas.

Formaldehyde gives off a distinct odor that can be overwhelming. Breathing in the fumes of formaldehyde has links to cancer risks and other respiratory illnesses, as well as causing burning eyes, noses and throats. Formaldehyde is used in particle board, a ubiquitous building material. Scientists believe the FEMA trailers were constructed with cheap wood and suffer from poor ventilation.

One disaster contracting firm owner doesn't see any problem with using the FEMA trailers as housing. He says, "Bottom line…I'm providing a service." He claims the workers housed in them are happy, and believes that formaldehyde is in everything and is not a big deal. So, what will happen when the people who are living in these trailers complain about becoming sick? Is it buyer beware, or will he turn around and try to sue the government? Knowingly violating rules meant to protect the health of people for a dollar does not excuse you from negligence.

If you or a loved one has become ill from living in a FEMA trailer, either after Hurricane Katrina or while working to clean up the Gulf Oil Spill, please contact the experienced product liability attorneys at the Cochran Firm. We serve clients nationwide.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 8:10 AM

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