It now appears that children who have had to live in FEMA trailers may face lifelong health problems. It’s being estimated that there may be tens of thousands of youngsters who may face lifelong health problems because the temporary housing supplied by FEMA contained formaldehyde fumes up to five times the safe level. As previously reported, the chemical, used in interior glue, was detected in many of the 143,000 trailers sent to the Gulf Coast in 2006. FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, didn’t even begin until this past February to get folks out of these trailers. According to members of Congress and CDC insiders, the agencies’ delay in recognizing the danger has caused problems. It has resulted in there being no plan in place to treat children as they grow older. Christopher De Rosa, assistant director for toxicology and risk assessment at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC, observed:
It’s tragic that when people most need the protection, they are actually going from one disaster to a health disaster that might be considered worse. Given the longer-term implications of exposure that went on for a significant period of time, people should be followed through time for possible effects.
The Environmental Protection Agency has classified Formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. There is no way to measure formaldelhyde in the bloodstream. Respiratory problems are an early sign of exposure. Young children are at particular risk. Thousands who lived in trailers will be in the prime of life in the 10 to 15 years doctors believe it takes cancer from this source to develop. FEMA and CDC reports so far have drawn criticism in Congress. The more we learn about the Katrina-related problems the worse things seem to be.
A CDC study released on May 8th examined records of 144 Mississippi children, some of whom lived in trailers and others who did not. But the study was confined to children who had at least one doctor’s visit for respiratory illness before Katrina. It was said to be largely inconclusive, finding children who went to doctors before the August 2005 storm were still visiting them two years later. A larger, five-year CDC study will include up to 5,000 children in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, according to CDC officials. The government says this study should begin next year. But members of Congress, pointing to the decade or longer it could take for cancer to develop, say a five-year look is inadequate. More than 22,000 FEMA trailers and mobile homes are still being used in Mississippi and Louisiana. FEMA and the CDC say they will create a registry of those who stayed in trailers for possible future study. But they admit that the task of keeping track of everyone is made difficult by the rush to get families into other housing. FEMA is a classic example of a government agency that doesn’t seem to have a clue about its mission.
Source: Associated Press
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