11/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Formaldehyde In FEMA Trailers For Katrina, Rita Victims Prompted No Action From Government

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to act for at least a year on warnings that trailers housing refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde, according to a House subcommittee report released Monday.

Instead, the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry demoted the scientist who questioned its initial assessment that the trailers were safe as long as residents opened a window or another vent, the report said.

That appraisal was produced in February 2007 at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had received thousands of complaints about fumes since providing the trailers to families left homeless by the devastating 2005 hurricanes. One year later, FEMA and CDC reversed course and acknowledged that formaldehyde levels in the trailers were five times higher than are typically found in new housing.

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