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FEMA's toxic trailers

This story of the same title from The Week magazine is to me emblematic of a sickness in our government and society in general. On the advice of the lawyers, FEMA failed to investigate claims that fumes in trailers provided to Katrina survivors were making them sick. Rather than "undermine the agency's position in any court proceedings," FEMA leaves them to the formaldehyde fumes.

FEMA officials covered up concerns that trailers provided to survivors of Hurricane Katrina contained toxic levels of formaldehyde, congressional investigators said last week. Agency e-mails unearthed by a House committee show that FEMA lawyers vetoed a proposal to test the trailers for formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Some 120,000 people displaced by the 2005 hurricane lived in FEMA-supplied trailers, and hundreds have reported health problems such as nosebleeds and shortness of breath. Following the death of one hurricane victim who had complained of fumes in his trailer, agency lawyers advised against an investigation, saying it “could seriously undermine the agency’s position” in any court proceedings. FEMA officials this week apologized and said they were testing the 66,000 trailers still in use.

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