WLOX Reports On Formaldehyde Complaints Date Back To Early 2006

He may not have been the first to notice it, but Paul Stewart who received his FEMA trailer in December of 2005, was the first resident to invite everyone into his world.

"Burning eyes, burning nose, scratchy throat, nasal headaches, that type of thing," Stewart told WLOX News in a March 16th, 2006 interview.

Being an active environmentalist, the Bay St. Louis resident had already heard of problems with formaldehyde in building materials, so he tested for it and found it. Stewart and his wife Melody took drastic steps to remedy the problem, but gave up two months later and purchased a new camper.

By then, their story had caught the eye of the Sierra Club, who ordered formaldehyde test kits.

"We have 32 of the tests back already," Stewart said in a May 17th interview. "Only one is deemed acceptable."

More calls for testing and more stories of suffering continued to mount as the summer of 2006 heated up.

"Do you know how you smell poison? It smells like poison," Gulfport resident Cynthia Willis told WLOX News in a July 18th, 2006 interview.

In mid July, then FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany first announced that FEMA was looking at testing options. But little had been done by the time we met Ida Mae Biggs in early 2007.

"When I go to sleep in there, I can't hardly wake up because they say its formaldehyde in the trailer," Biggs told WLOX News on January 12th, 2007.

Congress got involved in the summer of 2007 with hearings. Paul Stewart was there testifying before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. (Click here to read his prepared remarks.)

He told lawmakers, "I finally decided to call our local television station, WLOX, and ask reporter Al Showers if he would do a story on the issue. He agreed but was also a little concerned because he also lost his house during the storm and was also living in a FEMA trailer and both of us had already heard stories about campers being taken away from people and some living back on their slabs. Al and I feared if we did the story we could be next, but neither of us could sit back and let people get sick without doing something. The story ran at ten o'clock that evening and at 8am the next day I got a phone call from FEMA informing me that they were on the way with a new camper."

After those hearings, FEMA announced testing was about to begin. But that didn't happen until December in 500 random travel trailers, just like Paul Stewart tested nearly two years earlier.

"It's been troubling to me from the very beginning," Stewart told WLOX News this past December. "It's taken FEMA so long to react to a health crisis of this magnitude."