According to an investigation by congressional Democrats released Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency manipulated scientific research in order to play down the danger posed by formaldehyde in trailers issued to Katrina and Rita hurricane victims.

Democrats on a House Science and Technology subcommittee wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that FEMA “ignored, hid and manipulated government research on the potential impact of long-term exposure to formaldehyde” on Katrina and Rita victims now living in FEMA trailers.” FEMA is part of the Homeland Security Department.
The lawmakers are questioning the integrity of research done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, saying that they did not trust FEMA to conduct an independent investigation into the toxicity of the formaldehyde in trailers.
Lawmakers reported that the federal health agency that provided guidance to FEMA was “complicit in giving FEMA precisely what they wanted.”
As reported in Our Weekly several months ago, victims living in FEMA trailers had complained of health problems related to formaldehyde, a common preservative found in building materials used in manufactured homes.
Formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
FEMA tests revealed that the air quality in the trailers was safe if those trailers were properly ventilated.
In its initial round of testing, FEMA took samples from unoccupied trailers that had been aired out for days and compared them with federal standards for short-term exposure, according to the lawmakers. FEMA officials instructed scientists at the health agency to leave out details about long-term exposure in its consultation.
FEMA said the health agency’s Feb. 1, 2007 advice didn’t address long-term health effects. Instead, it conducted ways of avoiding toxic exposure to formaldehyde.