With a little over a month to go before the start of the 2008 hurricane season, U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D-Savannah) last week introduced legislation to help thousands of victims of the 2005 storms that rocked the Gulf Coast and drove many residents into trailers supplied by FEMA that contained toxic levels of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.
“Folks who survived the hurricanes are getting sick because of the housing the federal government gave them,” Barrow said. “I want to help those who have already been exposed, but I also want to make sure that folks who could take a direct hit from massive hurricanes or other natural disasters never have to deal with this problem again.
“My committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, has jurisdiction over almost all health matters, and so I’ve heard about the risks these trailers continue to pose. This bill can make a difference to the victims of Katrina and Rita, but it could also help other people all over the country.”
The “Travel Trailer Health Registry Act” (H.R. 5897) will provide free health examinations, consultations and mental health counseling to people who were exposed to formaldehyde in government-provided emergency shelters. That information will then be used to monitor health effects as part of an epidemiological study of the ongoing medical needs of people who have been exposed.
The bill will require the Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to establish and maintain a health registry for people who may have been exposed to formaldehyde in an emergency trailer in order to monitor the health effects of exposure over time.
The bill also will direct Homeland Security to develop a public information campaign to inform eligible individuals about the health registry, including how and where to register, and the benefits of registering.
“The suffering that Katrina and Rita victims had to experience was bad enough,” Barrow said. “To find out that the emergency trailers they were given are actually making them sick long after is even worse.
“We need to help these people, and we need to send a message that we won’t let this sort of thing happen again.”