Toxic Trailers Not Just For FEMA

RVs and recreational trailers are designed to be as light as possible; they are also often engineered to be as cheap as possible. Consequently they are built out of luan plywoods, thin particle boards, plastics and vinyls, full of formaldehyde, phthalates and fire retardants. As John noted earlier, they are also small, with a lot of interior surface area for the volume enclosed, and are baked at high temperatures in the southern sun.

Exactly like the toxic FEMA trailers.
Shelly Higden's new trailer gives her headaches and her son nosebleeds. It has seven times the acceptable level of formaldehyde. Matt Detrich, Indianapolis Star

That is why people who have bought trailers and RVs are beginning to connect the dots and are realizing that all of the issues facing occupants of FEMA trailers are affecting them. There are no rules, no limits on the use of glues and resins containing formaldehyde or other toxic materials.

According to USA Today, "Travel trailers and RVs are not regulated by anyone. You can use the worst formaldehyde product you can find if you want to," says Thad Godish, a professor of natural resources and environmental management at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

The industry is in trouble already because of high gas prices, the recession and a glut on the market; now new rules on formaldehyde will increase costs and slow production (alternative glues and finishes take longer to cure). Now the widespread publicity of the FEMA trailer issue could sink them.

"They've really taken a PR hit on this one," [engineer Joseph] Hagerman says. "Who is going to buy a new trailer if they heard about the health problems in Hurricane Katrina trailers?" ::USA Today

TreeHugger readers already know that formaldehyde free trailers built from healthy materials cost a lot more to build. See Sustain MiniHome: Sustainable Prefab Now.