FEMA Trailer Kids Still Suffering Health ProblemsNov 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Health Problems On FEMA Trailer Kids
A study of children who lived in travel trailers following Hurricane Katrina has revealed that many of them are still suffering from health problems. According to an article in USA Today, the 261 children in the study lived in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at Renaissance Village in Baton Rouge until it closed this past summer. Many of them are suffering from problems that could be linked to the toxic FEMA trailers' formaldehyde contamination, but other are indicative of the instability these kids have had to deal with, the report said.
In 2005, thousands of people in Mississippi and Louisiana were given FEMA trailers as temporary housing following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But by 2006 FEMA was getting reports from field workers along the Gulf Coast that residents of FEMA trailers where getting sick from the air in the toxic trailers. The first suspect was formaldehyde, which is used in the manufacture of the trailers. Despite the reports, e-mails uncovered last summer during a congressional investigation into the trailers showed that FEMA lawyers told the agency to drag its feet on air quality testing. FEMA’s Office of General Council also advised the agency not to test the trailers because doing so “would imply FEMA’s ownership of the issue”.
Air Quality Tests Conducted On 519 Trailers
Late last year, FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally conducted air quality tests of 519 trailers. The CDC tests confirmed that the FEMA trailers posed a serious danger to residents still living in them. The average formaldehyde levels found in the toxic trailers measured 77ppb (parts per billions), significantly higher than the 10 to 17 ppb concentration seen in newer homes. When it announced its findings, the CDC urged FEMA to move residents from the toxic trailers as quickly as possible, with priority given to families with children, elderly people or anyone with asthma or other chronic conditions.
This new study, which was released by the New York-based Children's Health Fund, did find that many of the children suffered from symptoms that could be related to formaldehyde exposure. According to USA Today, 42% of children were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, known as hay fever, and/or upper respiratory infection. Around 24% had a cluster of upper respiratory, allergic and skin ailments, the report said.
But those weren't the only health problems faced by these children. Around 41% of children younger than 4 were diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. According to USA Today, the researchers considered that number to be shockingly high. In fact, it is double the rate seen among children in New York City homeless shelters, the report said.
The study also found that 55% of elementary-school-aged children had a behavior or learning problem. Such problems are symptoms of a lack of stability that has plagued these families since the hurricane, the report said.
The Children's Health Fund also said that FEMA has added to the problems faced by these kids, because its case management program has yet to provide any services for thousands of families in need.
Irwin Redlener, President of the Children's Health Fund, told Newsweek that he was extremely alarmed by the study's findings. According to Redlener, the children in the study were "the sickest I have ever seen in the U.S.".
Redlener told Newsweek that his biggest concern is that many of these children will end up with permanent health problems. That may not happen with intervention, Redlener said, but finding these children has been difficult. Unfortunately, FEMA has not lived up to a promise to provide the state of Louisiana with contact information for families who have left the trailer parks, Redlener said.
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