CDC Begins Public Sessions On FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde

People worried that their FEMA trailers could be making them sick now have somewhere to go to ask questions. Monday in Hancock County, the Centers For Disease Control hosted the first of eight public meetings in Mississippi. The topic: formaldehyde.

The CDC meeting included a presentation outlining the results of formaldehyde tests on 519 FEMA trailers in Mississippi and Louisiana. Officials also talked about possible health effects, some of which they say may not show up for years to come.

Hancock County resident Debbie Price says she fears for the health of her daughter and unborn grandchild.

"I'm somewhat concerned," said Price. "My daughter has been living in a FEMA trailer since December 2005. She's been having headaches and she's really concerned. She's expecting any day now."

Experts from the Centers For Disease Control say tests indicate the formaldehyde levels in FEMA's temporary housing units are unsafe.

Dr. Jim Lando, a physician with the Public Health Service said, "The major finding is that we did find high levels of formaldehyde in the temporary units supplied by FEMA. Highest in travel trailers, then in mobile homes and then park models. But in each of the groups there were high levels within each of those groups. So our recommendation is that FEMA move to get people out of the trailers before the summer, which will raise the levels of formaldehyde in those trailers."

Dr. Lando says people could experience both short and long heath effects from high levels of formaldehyde exposure.

"One is the short term symptoms that people will have and those are mostly upper respiratory," said Dr. Lando. "They're irritant effects. They're on the eyes, nose, throat and that's caused by the formaldehyde actually touching the eyes, nose, and throat. The thing we're most concerned about though is the cancer risk, which is something that happens over the long term. Formaldehyde has been associated with nasal pharyngeal cancer and there's no known safe level of exposure. "

CDC officials say the testing is not over.

"There is a plan for a study of children to look at their health status before Katrina and Rita hit and then afterward," said Dr. Lando. "So that will get more at the question as to whether there was a relationship between living in the temporary housing units and health effects. The second is there is a plan to set up a registry of people so we can follow them long term. As I said the cancer issue is a long term issue, so that would mean longer term follow up."

FEMA representatives were also on-hand at the meeting to answer questions about relocation opportunities.FEMA is placing the elderly, those with health conditions and young children first in hotels or rental units.

The Centers for Disease Control will hold several more sessions across the coast for people to talk one-on-one with CDC scientists.

  • Monday, March 3rd - Pearlington Recovery Center: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Monday, March 3rd - St. Rose de Lima (Bay St. Louis): 6p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 4th - Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church (Pass Christian, MS): 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 4th - West Harrison Civic Center (Long Beach, MS): 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 5th - Episcopal Church of the Redeemer (Biloxi, MS): 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 6p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 6th - Moss Point Riverfront Center: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.