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Bush Administration Delays Harmed Katrina Victims

July 23, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – Today, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released a report requested by Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) entitled FEMA Responses to Formaldehyde in Trailers (OIG-09-83). The report reviewed FEMA’s decision-making, policy formation, and operational procedures after FEMA discovered that approximately one-third of trailers purchased to house Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims contained high and hazardous levels of formaldehyde. The report found the following:

• FEMA did not take sufficient, prompt and effective action to determine the extent of formaldehyde contamination.

• FEMA spent nearly a year conducting unnecessary tests on unoccupied trailers to determine that ventilation was more effective than temperature control at reducing formaldehyde levels.

• FEMA did not take effective action regarding formaldehyde in trailers until media reaction grew to disturbing levels.

• FEMA caused two delays in initiating testing of occupied trailers. First, FEMA took 6 months to negotiate the scope of a study with CDC. Second, FEMA delayed the tests for 2 months to develop a public communications strategy to inform trailer occupants about the CDC study.

Chairman Thompson released the following statement in response to the findings:

“The Bush Administration’s delayed action on testing these trailers is absolutely unacceptable. Clearly, the old FEMA was more worried about media relations than they were about the health of the families they are charged with serving.”

“I am pleased that the new Administration has agreed to implement all of the Inspector General’s recommendations. This government must now ensure that we help those who may suffer adverse health consequences because of government negligence.”

Link to the Report (PDF)

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Dena Graziano or Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

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