FEMA Trailers for Katrina Victims Tainted by Toxic Chemical

Tens of thousands of Katrina evacuees live in contaminated mobile homes.

Feb. 14, 2008— -- Today, the government finally admitted that FEMA trailers, used by Hurricane Katrina survivors, contain a toxic carcinogen, formaldehyde, and now, those hurricane evacuees must leave their trailers.

Steve Huckabee and his family survived Hurricane Katrina, only to live through a second disaster — their FEMA mobile home.

"I was wondering why my family was sick, and we finally realized, oh, it's formaldehyde," Huckabee said.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen used in glues, and is found in a trailer's carpets, walls and cabinets.

Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are making the recommendation that all of the people in these situations be relocated to safer, permanent housing as quickly as possible, and certainly before the warm summer months arrive."

Trailer residents started complaining of illness back in 2006 — everything from burning eyes to breathing problems.

But despite the complaints, FEMA, at first, tried to avoid testing the trailers. And last year, the best advice the battered agency could offer evacuees was to "ventilate" their homes.

Up to 38,000 of the trailers are still home for 100,000 people, who moved there to get out of more expensive hotels and motels. But what will they do with this new health warning?

"We have been moving as fast as we can. We did not have a lot of information two years ago, or 18 months ago, when this started." FEMA director David Paulison said. "We'll move them into motels and hotels, if we have to get people out, and then we'll look for something long-term, like an apartment or a house, or somehting like that."

FEMA won't give exact numbers, but by the time this debacle ends, one estimate suggests the total program could cost about $9 billion — $60,000 for each trailer.

On Capitol Hill today, Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said he's throwing in the towel on trailers.

"We are out of the trailer business, we are no longer going to provide trailers for people," said Chertoff.

Huckabee hopes to move his family out of his FEMA housing in a couple of months, leaving without knowing the long-term effects on his family after living with an invisible danger.