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Toxic FEMA Trailers Raise Concerns Over RVs, Campers

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RVs, campers and recreational trailers may be exposing users to dangerously high levels of formaldehyde, similar to what happened to residents of toxic FEMA  (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers. Such trailers and campers are made by the same manufacturers that provided the toxic FEMA trailers, and it turns out that many of those recreational trailers contain dangerously high levels of formaldehyde as well. And surprisingly,  no federal or state agency bars manufacturers fof RV, campers and recreational trailers from using materials in them that contain formaldehyde. Right now, mobile homes are the only vehicles in which formaldehyde is covered by federal law.

A recent article in USAToday detailed on family who, after suffering respiratory and other problems following a vacation in a recreational trailer, had the air quality in the structure tested. The family discovered that airborne formaldehyde in the travel trailer was seven times the amount considered acceptable by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency.

There is momentum building for more regulation of recreational trailers. According to USAToday, California will phase in a requirement that manufacturers cut by half the amount of formaldehyde in manufactured wood for all products sold, used or made for sale in California. Two congressional committees also are examining health issues related to emergency housing for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The investigations could lead to strict formaldehyde standards for future RVs, campers and travel trailers for emergency or normal consumer use.

Formaldehyde is an invisible gas that is known to cause cancer. It can also cause other illnesses ranging from nose bleeds to chronic bronchitis. Commonly used in manufactured homes and recreational trailers, formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable carcinogen by the  EPA.

In 2006, FEMA workers along the Gulf Coast alerted the agency to possible problems with air quality in the trailers used to house hurricane victims. FEMA was less than responsive, and did not get around to conducting comprehensive air quality tests on the trailers until late last year. Preliminary results of tests on 519 trailers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) where released in February. The tests confirmed that the FEMA trailers pose a serious danger to residents still living in them. The CDC trailer tests revealed average formaldehyde levels of 77ppb (parts per billions), significantly higher than the 10 to 17 ppb concentration seen in newer homes. The CDC said at the time that it was urgent that those still living in toxic FEMA trailers be relocated as soon as possible.

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