Newsweek reports that the children displaced by Hurricane Katrina who spent the longest amount of time in government-provided temporary housing—a.k.a. FEMA’s toxic trailers—are “the sickest I have ever seen in the U.S.,” according to , and a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The ailments, according to a study of 261 post-Katrina kids, range from mental health disorders to anemia, and are astonishingly widespread: Forty-one percent of the children are anemic—twice the rate found in minors in New York City homeless shelters—and 42 percent have respiratory infections and other problems likely linked to the excessive formaldehyde in the trailers.
As we’ve discussed on Discoblog, formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen as well as an allergen, and is used in many products, including the wood used to build these disaster homes. The formaldehyde gas levels in FEMA’s trailers were so toxic that Katrina victims began complaining of illnesses, including breathing difficulties, bloody noses, and even gas-linked deaths, almost immediately after they moved into them.
Even worse, a Salon report in January of this year revealed that FEMA had pressured scientists to water down a report on the health risks of formaldehyde in the trailers, all as part of an effort to avoid getting sued. Of course, the real results have been severe and possibly permanent damage to the health of thousands of children. We could wag a finger at this umpteenth egregious example of how the Bush administration’s policy on science obfuscation has endangered lives, but we’re too aggrieved to try.