Embalmed in Your RV: Formaldehyde Poisons Vacationers

While there are no tests for formaldehyde poisoning, Motes' doctor told him it was "highly suspected." When he attempted to return his RV, the dealership refused to acknowledge the problem, according to Motes.

"They are stringing us along," said Motes, who is still paying off a 10-year loan at $300 a month. "I am not a happy camper."

His dealer, Emerald Coast RV in Robertsdale, Ala., did not return calls made by ABC News.

About 8 million Americans drive RVs, and the industry is thriving. Manufacturers shipped 390,500 campers in 2005, the best year in the last 30, according to the Recreation Vehicle Association. This year, sales topped 127,900 by April.

"Good RV manufacturers limit the use of formaldehyde in their products," said Michelle McClanahan, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based RV Consumer Group.

But the Sierra Club said the use of tainted particle board was more widespread. The group tested 16 different brands of campers and found formaldehyde "across the board."

"The industry tends to look the other way because these types of trailers are not built for extended stays," said Connie Gallant, president of the RV Consumer Group, in a letter obtained by ABC News. "A good portion of consumers who purchase an RV do so with the intent of either full-time living or spending winter months living in the RV."

The Sierra Club has set up a Web site for complaints and, so far, about a dozen RV owners have posted stories about lung surgery, respiratory distress and chronic fatigue.

One mother rushed her baby to the emergency room with a phantom rash. After testing her RV at the suggestion of the dealer, formaldehyde levels registered at .75. Her dealer has agreed to give her money back, but only if she signs a health release.

"The manufacturer is basically holding us hostage," wrote the mother. "We cannot sell this trailer because it is unsafe. So [it] is sitting empty at our campground with the new season starting without us."

Kevin Broom, director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, told ABC News, "We are aware of the issue and I can't really say a whole lot more pending litigation."

Broom is referring to a class action suit filed against FEMA trailer manufacturers that is gaining momentum. Several Congress members, including Rep. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, have called for an investigation.

"It's interesting to note how the RV industry seems to be downplaying the findings," said consumer advocate Gallant. "We are not surprised by such reaction."

The Sierra Club has also received complaints from those who bought some of the 47,000 unused FEMA trailers that are being auctioned off by the government.

Robert Richardson of Birmingham, Ala., bought his used Gulf Stream Cavalier at a government auction for $4,600. The 60-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran didn't initially associate his sinus and bronchial problems with the trailer.

"I felt like I was being poisoned or that I had something inside that was slowly killing me," said Richardson, who has hired a lawyer to try to get his money back. "The smell was so bad it made your eyes water. What aggravated me most is if you have a piece of property with a chemical like that, you're supposed to tell the buyer."

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