Are FEMA trailers being used to house cleanup workers? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Are FEMA trailers being used to house cleanup workers?

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By Cheryl Mercedes - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The boxy white trailers used to house hundreds of thousands of people following hurricane Katrina are reportedly making a second appearance.

The government banned the sale of the trailers after high levels of formaldehyde found in some of them were linked to possible health risks.  Some fear contractors along the Gulf Coast may be overlooking a potentially dangerous situation.

U.S. Representatives Edward Markey and Charlie Melancon are trying to put the brakes on contractors who have apparently started selling the campers to oil spill relief workers to use as living quarters.

"It's stunning on one hand, but not surprising this has been characteristic of everything that has occurred since day one," said Markey.  Melancon says that workers are spending all day in toxic fumes and oil could be returning to trailers that cause a number of health problems.

The trailers have serial numbers and are supposed to bear stickers indicating they were FEMA formaldehyde trailers, and buyers are supposed to sign a waiver stating they are aware of the health risks involved.

Melancon and Markey aren't convinced that has happened.  They are worried those identifiers may have been removed from the trailers before they were sold.  "It's not like a mattress where they've taken off the warning label," said Markey.  "This is more like a pack of cigarettes that is harmful to people's health that is now being used to house people's health."

When asked about the potential dangers to oil spill clean-up workers living in the trailers, Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Erin Brewer said it is too early to tell.  "This is the beginning of the story and it's not clear to me how long the oil response workers will be in the trailers and what the other risk factors are for health problems," said Dr. Brewer.

The U.S. General Services Administration released a statement Friday evening stating the agency's Office of Real Property will send an email to travel trailer buyers.  It reminds them that they must notify anyone who buys the trailer in the future that it was once a FEMA trailer and that it is against the law to use it as housing.

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