Nearly three years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many victims continue to suffer. The source of their distress? The temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. About 17,000 plaintiffs have joined a lawsuit alleging that excessive formaldehyde levels in FEMA-supplied trailers and mobile homes made them sick. The chemical, emitted from the wood used to construct the shelters and present in other construction materials, has been linked to cancer and is known to cause respiratory problems, many of which have shown up in FEMA trailer residents. After balking at initial reports that something could be wrong with the emergency housing, FEMA has since established a formaldehyde standard that took effect with the agency's order of new trailers for the 2008 hurricane season: 16 parts per billion, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate of the indoor average for a modern home.
The number of FEMA-supplied trailers or mobile homes still occupied by victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The number of FEMA-delivered trailers or mobile homes found to have elevated formaldehyde levels.
77 parts per billion
The average formaldehyde level found in the FEMA trailers. The amount is enough to cause respiratory illnesses and increase cancer risks.
The number of national standards regulating formaldehyde levels in any kind of housing. In 1985, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development limited the amount of formaldehyde that could be present in wood used for building homes, but there's no cap on the amount of wood that can be used.
The portion of New Orleans owner-occupied housing destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The homeless population in New Orleans, which has doubled since 2005.