FEMA Trailers Had Too Much Particle Board, Too Little Ventilation

fema trailers lined up photo

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that Katrina trailers emitted four to eleven times as much formaldehyde as one might get in conventional housing. There are rules restricting the amount of formaldehyde that can be emitted in mobile homes, but not in wheeled trailers. According to the Washington Post:

Berkeley researchers said they found "exceptionally large emissions of formaldehyde" in units tested and traced the chemical's presence to extensive use of cheap, light plywood and particleboard for walls, flooring and cabinet surfaces. At the same time, trailers "are not outfitted for adequate ventilation and are tighter than would be desired for housing with such small volume," they said.

The combination of weak regulation and manufacturers intent on selling the cheapest possible product led to 11,000 health complaints.


There is a lesson here for everyone though. All new housing is built to be more air-tight than it used to be, but kitchens and furniture are still built with particle boards and plywoods that emit formaldehyde. While the outgassing reduces over time, why not check to see if that new flatpack desk or kitchen is formaldehyde free. Or maybe we should just ban the stuff. ::Washington Post
The FEMA Formaldehyde Fiasco:
FEMA Trailers Optimizing Formaldehyde Exposure
FEMA Formaldehyde Fiasco Festers
FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Liability Suit On The Way :
How CDC bungled FEMA Formaldehyde
FEMA Ignored or Buried Formaldehyde Research
Big Steps In Building: Ban Formaldehyde