Yesterday a House subcommittee made allegations that FEMA employees manipulated scientific data in order to hide the dangers of toxic gas emitted into trailers housing survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The committee cited documents given to Congress alleging that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aided FEMA is concealing adverse health effects of long-term exposure to formaldehyde. The lawmakers claim that the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ignored one its experts, Christopher T. De Rosa, after he gave an opinion that was not in line with what FEMA wanted to hear.
Representatives Brad Miller (NC) and Nick Lampson (TX) are leading the charge against FEMA and the questionable practices that have been employed in this case. They believe the organization may have seriously endangered the lives of hurricane survivors by not considering valid expert’s opinions when composing their report.
“Honest scientific studies don’t start with the conclusion, and then work backwards from there,” Miller said.
“Any level of exposure to formaldehyde may pose a cancer risk, regardless of duration,” De Rosa wrote in a Feb. 27, 2007, letter to a FEMA lawyer, recently obtained by a House Science and Technology investigative subcommittee that Miller chairs. “Failure to communicate this issue is possibly misleading and a threat to public health.”
Over 40,000 trailers are still in use by families displaced by the devastating hurricanes that pummeled the gulf coast in August of 2005. Tests of indoor air quality on 500 trailers began last month. FEMA maintains that for those living in these trailers there are no adverse health effects that cannot be cured by opening a window.