A group of Gulf Coast hurricane victims sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Tuesday for issuing trailers that they claim exposed them to dangerous fumes.
Recent government tests on hundreds of FEMA trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi found formaldehyde levels that were, on average, about five times higher than what people are exposed to in most modern homes.
Nearly 100 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama are named as plaintiffs in the cases against more than 60 trailer manufacturers. Their lawyers want their cases to be certified as a class action.
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre declined to comment on the suit’s allegations, but he said the agency has been “fully transparent” in responding to the formaldehyde concerns. He described formaldehyde as an industry issue, not a FEMA issue.
Formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The plaintiffs said that trailer makers used shoddy materials and construction methods in a rush to fill FEMA’s unprecedented demand for emergency housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.