Southeast Texas residents living in travel trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for emergency housing are not complaining of health problems, according to a report in the Beaumont Enterprise.
Following air quality testing by a Mississippi chapter of the Sierra club of units in that state, residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina filed a class action suit against FEMA and several RV builders, claiming formaldehyde fumes are causing illness.
According to the Enterprise, Southeast Texas residents have not reported any problems.
“It’s the ‘new car smell,'” said Charles Powell, who has been with Beaumont’s FEMA office since October, adding he isn’t aware of any complaints about the air quality in their travel trailers.
Powell said by phone that when a travel trailer is set up and the keys turned over, the residents are advised to air the trailer out and keep air circulating in it.
The Enterprise reported that Bill Tetley of the Sierra Club’s Golden Triangle Group in Texas stated in an e-mail that the group hasn’t been approached by anyone about their travel trailer’s air quality, which probably is what happened in Mississippi.
The local group doesn’t have any immediate plans to do similar tests, Tetley stated.
FEMA officials with the New Orleans public affairs office said they have so few complaints with travel trailers in Southwest Louisiana that they haven’t tracked them. The trailer has been switched out in each of those cases in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.
Health officials with the Port Arthur (Texas) Health Department said they haven’t had any complaints of formaldehyde-related ailments, which include burning eyes, irritated throat, sinus congestion, respiratory problems, persistent coughing, rashes and nosebleeds.
Mary Harris, a Sabine Pass, Texas, resident, said she hasn’t had problems with her 35-foot FEMA trailer she has lived in since November. She goes to the doctor regularly for checkups and hasn’t had any unusual problems.
The FEMA trailer the Sniders have lived in since Dec. 28 has a warning in the medicine cabinet that formaldehyde was used to manufacture some of the trailer’s parts, said Cheryl Snider, who is a member of the Sabine Pass Organization for Disaster Relief.
She hasn’t heard of anyone with complaints about the trailers’ air quality and probably would have through the relief organization, which has fielded complaints about debris in ditches and concerns about rebuilding.
“It’s not designed to be lived in for a long time,” Cheryl Snider said. “But as my husband says, (the travel trailer is) better than living in a tent.”