NEW ORLEANS

- A multimillion dollar settlement is near over mobile homes in which formaldehyde gas was emitted by interior particleboard, flooring materials, glues and adhesives in cabinetry, bunk beds and bench seats. A Federal suit in the matter was filed in Louisiana on behalf of thousands of families housed in the homes after Hurricane Katrina.

More than 120,000 families who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 were housed in temporary mobile homes and travel trailers provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Mississippi and Louisiana.

After residents complained indoor air quality problems were causing burning eyes, throat irritation, headaches and bloody noses, environmental group Sierra Club reported finding formaldehyde in about 88 percent of the RVs and mobile homesites tested.

Subsequent testing by the Environmental Protection Agency in October 2006 and then by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2007 confirmed the high levels of formaldehyde con. In early 2008 FEMA and the CDC announced that levels of formaldehyde gas were high enough to warrant moving all residents out of the trailers before the hot summer period when formaldehyde outgassing is worst due to high temperatures and humidity.


FEMA travel trailers for families hit by Hurricane Katrina
were found to have high levels of formaldehyde outgassing
from interior wood components and cabinetry.

 
FEMA provided manufactured homes in Missouri
after a tornado that hit in April 2, 2006. Photo
by Patsy Lynch for FEMA.
Below, a CDC formaldehyde testing kit.
 

In early 2008 FEMA and the CDC announced that levels of the toxic gas were high enough to warrant moving all residents out of the trailers before the hot summer period when formaldehyde outgassing is worst due to high temperatures and humidity.

The formaldehyde gas was found in particleboard, flooring materials, glues and adhesives in the cabinetry, bunk beds and bench seats of camper trailers. Formaldehyde is listed as a carcinogen by the U.S. government and exposure at high levels over a prolonged period of time may cause cancer.

The Louisiana Record newspaper, reporting Jan. 21 on the settlement, said motions  to dismiss the case had been filed by plaintiff attorneys Daniel Becnel Jr. and Matthew Moreland in the U.S. Federal Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana. The settlement would involve about two dozen manufacturers, including Cavalier Home Builders, Patriot Homes Inc., CMH Manufacturing and Champion Home Builders. Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., which supplied FEMA with travel trailers before it filed for bankruptcy in 2009, previously settled around 8,000 claims. The settlement does not apply to suits involving FEMA's own travel trailers, says the Record; FEMA trailer suits have been consolidated into separate litigation.

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