The toxic trailers that became a symbol of FEMA bungling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have found their way to a fresh disaster. Dozens of the trailers, which investigators found to contain levels of formaldehyde far in excess of federal limits, are being used as temporary housing for workers cleaning up the Gulf oil spill despite a government ban on using the trailers for housing, the New York Times reports.
Formaldehyde, an industrial chemical, has been linked to nasal cancer and respiratory problems. The trailers are not intended to be used as housing and those who sell them need to inform buyers of that, a FEMA official says, but several buyers say they're unaware of the prohibition. "These are perfectly good trailers,” says the owner of a disaster contracting firm that has sold 20 of them to cleanup workers. “Look, you know that new car smell? Well, that’s formaldehyde, too. The stuff is in everything. It’s not a big deal.”