What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Formaldehyde-Filled FEMA Trailers

Formaldehyde-Filled FEMA Trailers

Americans living in government trailers large enough for a Barbie doll or two is bad enough. More alarming is their extended 20 month plus stay because the Bush Administration has yet to belly up to the bar and provide real leadership in the recovery efforts down here. Bush’s silence is deafening in resolving the financial crisis due in large part to insurance companies like State Farm and Allstate.

If the Bush White House had taken a leadership role and resolved this issue in favor of policyholders, then 50,000 families remaining in FEMA trailers would have long ago been able to rebuild or renovate their Katrina destroyed homes. These families would have been able to have moved out of their FEMA trailers, which bring up the latest example of the Administration’s despicable and deliberate neglect in Katrina land.

Bush’s FEMA delivered trailers containing toxic levels of formaldehyde. More than 50,000 families displaced by Katrina and Rita still live in FEMA trailers and mobile homes. What did Bush’s man, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison, recommend to those families?

"We've told people they can air those trailers out," Paulison said.

Air out the trailers? Is he crazy? Stupid? Both? Maybe he should just live in one of those formaldehyde-filled FEMA trailers for a few years. Just until we inaugurate a Democrat in the White House in January 2009. That’s 20 months, the length of time from Katrina to now. Fair enough, don’t you think?

When it comes to the good people living in the Katrina-ravaged area, Paulison marches in lockstep as a Bush crony ignoring what the Center for Disease Control has to say about the fact that elevated levels of formaldehyde gas can cause headaches, burning eyes and throats, nausea and difficulty breathing.

The Clarion-Ledger, the daily paper in Jackson, Miss., the capitol of the state, reported "Becky Gillette, vice chairwoman of the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club, said testing of some FEMA trailers and mobile homes showed elevated levels of formaldehyde, even in those that have been aired out for months.

'We're getting high readings in trailers that are 20 months old,' Gillette said."

In the meantime, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has demanded Paulison and FEMA turn over all of its formaldehyde-related documents including those “related to communications between the agency and trailer manufacturers regarding formaldehyde levels.” Waxman has been trying to get this information since last August. When the Democrats officially took over Congress in January, Waxman became chair of this committee and his power increased substantially.

If Paulison fails to turn over all of the documents by the May 29th deadline, Waxman has already threatened to issue a subpoena. That’s one of the real differences that happens when the Democrats are in charge. Personally, I’m elated that Waxman is on top of this using the power of the subpoena as he should.

Real government oversight. What a breath of fresh air—pun quite intended.

The Clarion-Ledger also reported "Lindsay Huckabee, who is living in a FEMA mobile home in Kiln with her husband and five children, said she's contacted FEMA at least 30 times because she believes her home has toxic levels of formaldehyde.

"She says her children, who range in age from 1 to 12 years, have had persistent nosebleeds and respiratory problems.

"Two were hospitalized with pneumonia, she said.

"'We've reported (problems) over and over again and we haven't gotten any response,' she said,"

You may recognize the name of the Kiln (pronounced ‘kill’—the ‘n’ is silent) as the hometown of Bret Favre, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. The Kiln is about 30 minutes north of the Gulf Coast where my home town of Bay St. Louis is. As evidenced by the Huckabee story, Katrina’s damage went inland and far beyond the coastal region.

Paulison is advising the Huckabee family—and tens of thousands just like it—that any healthcare problems would go away with just airing out the trailer. What a stupid, inane, callous disregard for the health and well-being of these families, these children, these men and women who are good Americans and loving parents. The Sierra Club’s testing of the trailers that were aired out for months got readings that the formaldehyde levels were high. Perhaps it is the Bushies who are high when they are creating their reality-free public policies and recommendations for the American people.

I’m a firm believer in the “what’s-good-for-the-goose” philosophy, if you know what I mean. Since Paulison sees Bush’s FEMA trailers poise no real health threat then he and every FEMA employee that is marching in lock step should demonstrate the strength of their convictions in the official Bush Administration’s advice by living in FEMA trailers for the next 20 months. I’m sure that the Huckabee family would gladly provide theirs to Mr. Paulison himself.

Either way, Paulison and his staff who are carrying out this willful ignorance of a public health hazard get to show the world how much stock they put into the Bush Administration’s advice.

It’s a win-win situation. If the Republicans steal a third presidential election, then Paulison and his staff can remain in their trailers. If we Democrats do what needs doing to prevent the Republicans from stealing the presidential election agaits, then in January 2009, Paulison and his staff can go home to their families fit as a fiddle, right?

Should they experience “headaches, burning eyes and throats, nausea and difficulty breathing” or if their noses start to bleed, they can just say a little prayer as they air out their trailers. When that doesn’t work, maybe they’ll turn in their faith-based, factually-free health recommendation for a dose of harsh reality. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

The Bushies more likely to hold their breath than to admit they deliberately deceived the American people with their willful neglect, stupidity, and blind faith in a White House that continues to betray the New Orleans and Mississippi Gulf Coast . . . along with everyone else from the East Coast to the West Coast.

As they hold their breath, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at our fingertips we possess the tools to help bring about a better outcome for those families living in formaldehyde-filled FEMA trailers.

You know what that means . . . it’s political hell-raising time. We’ll target two people and have a hoot doing it!

On the one hand, we’ll contact Congressman Henry Waxman to applaud his investigation into the formaldehyde-filled FEMA trailers. This is plain ol’ positive reinforcement. It works on children and adults alike. ;) When you call, I’m sure that you’ll get a staffer who expresses sheer joy in taking down your message. We’ll be the ones to get a kick out of it as well. We’ll be encouraging Congressman Waxman and his staff to work diligently. They will all appreciate it immensely and work diligently they will!

On the other hand, we’ll contact FEMA Director David Paulison to recommend that he live in a formaldehyde-filled FEMA trailer for the next 20 months as a way to demonstrate to the American people his faith in the trailers’ health and safety. We’ll be informing the FEMA Director’s office that we wish him to implement the policy that we know of as “what’s-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander."

We’ll be talking with a staff member, who will relay our message up the line. When we contact the FEMA director’s office, we’ll be the ones who get a kick out of telling this political hack that reality-free public policy should be reserved for the elite within the Bush Administration. What a hoot we’ll have!

Political Hell-Raising time
Click here for the email letter and here for the phone script to Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Click here for the phone script to Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison.

A year ago, FEMA knew of the high concentrations of formaldehyde in the government's emergency housing trailers. On May 18, 2007, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wrote FEMA Director David Paulison. “I implore you to expand and accelerate FEMA’s efforts to address the formaldehyde hazard . . . .”

Read Senator Landrieu’s letter here.

Read CBS’s ongoing coverage. FEMA Trailers And Formaldehyde: The Story Continues.

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