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Old 02-14-2008, 11:27 AM   #1
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FEMA Trailer Evacuations - What's in your AS?

"Happy Valentine's Day. Now evacuate your trailer if you want to live!"
- Love, FEMA

Rapid FEMA Trailer Evacuations Urged, U.S. Health Officials Say Toxic Levels Of Formaldehyde Found In Trailers - CBS News

In my cursory search, I didn't find threads that reference the toxic materials used in the FEMA trailers for Katrina victims, but it certainly made me wonder what's in our vintage 60's trailers (other than the asbestos floor tiles) and what Jackson Center is using as they build the Airstreams of today.

Formaldahyde, off-gassing paints and finishes, etc.... According to CNN's report this morning, FEMA's recommendation for those living in their trailers is to open a window once in a while. For their own employees, FEMA suggests not going in the trailers on sunny days. Wow.

So for all of us, and particularly those of us full-timing, I wonder if there exists any agency or group that "tears down" these trailers, (similar to iPods and other electronics) to look for dangerous materials that could adversely affect our health.

I'd hate to find out that the longer we spend in our wonderful Airstreams, the fewer years we're giving ourselves to enjoy them.
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Old 02-14-2008, 11:37 AM   #2
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Aually makes you happy to be an Airstream owner! I was at our AS dealer the day FEMA showed up. They do sell a few SOB and FEMA bought everyone on their lot! No big surprise that Formaldahyde is found in RV's. A very common element as a by-product of all sorts of building materials. Of course in a small confined space trace elements will be found.
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Old 02-14-2008, 11:37 AM   #3
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I'll go there...

Quote:
Originally Posted by bredlo
I'd hate to find out that the longer we spend in our wonderful Airstreams, the fewer years we're giving ourselves to enjoy them.
Given the number of WBCCI members of advanced age, I would guess there is little chance of that...
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Old 02-14-2008, 11:39 AM   #4
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OK, so if the levels are really that high, why are the manufacturers allowed to use this material in the first place? Does anybody know what the formaldehyde is used for? Glues maybe?

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Old 02-14-2008, 11:42 AM   #5
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OK, so if the levels are really that high, why are the manufacturers allowed to use this material in the first place? Does anybody know what the formaldehyde is used for? Glues maybe?

Jim
I seem to remember it being used in the glue for particle board, among other things. One reason why Airstreams are better in that regard, very little particle board is used.
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Old 02-14-2008, 11:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickandsandi
Aually makes you happy to be an Airstream owner!
That's kind of what I'm saying. Besides the aluminum shell and better design, I wouldn't be happy to find out that all the same toxicity levels are identical to the SOB's!


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Originally Posted by rickandsandi
No big surprise that Formaldahyde is found in RV's. A very common element as a by-product of all sorts of building materials.
I wasn't surprised to hear a year or two ago that chopped up dogs and cats were being used in dog and cat food either, but that didn't make any healthier.

It sounds like a comprehensive study on the adverse effects in these industry-standard materials has been completed in this situation. If Airstream is using them as well, shouldn't something be done to stop it? If that means a more expensive alternative glue or finish, shouldn't that be considered?

Or maybe an alternative "Greenstream" model for 2009 that won't give you lung cancer... as quickly.
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Old 02-14-2008, 11:56 AM   #7
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I think the point would be that RVs are not really made to be lived in, they are made for camping in, and yes, you should open a window now and then, in fact even in 1968 the manual stated to always have the vents open for ventilation.

Although these are often referred to as 'FEMA trailers' they are just regular RVs, right?

Hey, it's just 'new car smell'
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:00 PM   #8
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Uhh, not exactly...

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Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
Although these are often referred to as 'FEMA trailers' they are just regular RVs, right?

Hey, it's just 'new car smell'
The FEMA trailers were slapped together using the cheapest, fastest method possible, using the cheapest materials possible. Many don't even have holding tanks of any kind, and only a couple of windows. Kind of hard to open a window, when there isn't one.
I've been in several, and if they've been closed up for a while, the smell will almost knock you down. peee-yooo!
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:00 PM   #9
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Formaldahyde is a byproduct in the production of many of the synthetic materials used in all trailers. Wall boards, cabinets, flooring, carpet, beds and seat foam, insulation, glue, sealant, injection expandable foam and many more items off-gas formaldahyde. It's part of that "new car smell" you inhale when you get a new car, it's what you smell when you go into a SOB or an Airstream on a lot on a sunny day, it's part of that fresh carpet smell when you get your home floors done, it's that new wood smell from new kitchen cabinets and flooring, and many other things.

The main issue was the length of exposure and the concentration to that exposure that is the issue. Many of the FEMA trailers were pressed into service days (in some cases hours) after they were built. They never had a chance to let things cure or offgas the formaldahyde. But, one big issue, and for many in my area, it the length of exposure issue. These trailers were and still are a temporary solution to a bigger issue - NO HOUSING. Come look around - lots of trailers now have poarches, additions, gardens, driveways, etc., THAT WAS NEVER THE INTENT of these trailers. 29 months later and people are still in them. Many of the people that are still in them have found them comfortable and better in some cases than the homes they were in.

Don't get me wrong - if I had needed one I would have been overjoyed with the prospect of a roof over my head. This is not a government issue - people need to help themselves, the government won't and should not do it for you. If my home made me sick - I would move out. Sometimes what is FREE is not always good for you.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:04 PM   #10
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stinky vapors

We toured a few SOB in the summer last year, and in several of them our eyes burned from the vapors! It wasn't a very plesent feeling. Funny the dealer did say that many RV companies are now going low Formaldahyde, and you should 'air' out your new trailer for a few weeks.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clancy_boy
This is not a government issue - people need to help themselves, the government won't and should not do it for you. If my home made me sick - I would move out.
I agree, it isn't a gov't issue. I also don't think it's an issue about how common these materials are. Maybe in a house they're fine, but the research is showing they're not fine after a couple years in the close proximity of a trailer.

The question for me is solely about whether or not manufacturers of SOB's and Airstreams are knowingly using materials that are harmful to their inhabitants. If so, put a simple warning label on it. (Cigarettes and booze have 'em, and their side effects are arguably much easier to discern as harmful.)

Like this:
Warning! This trailer was not designed to be lived in year round. The concentration of gasses and toxins in the materials used in its manufacture can be harmful to respiratory systems if you spend more than 8 weekends a year inside our product.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:29 PM   #12
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FEMA and CDC are on the local news here in New Orleans as I type and it is not pretty. They will try to get everyone out of the trailers ASAP. Some levels were 40 X acceptable. Very random can not be tied to trailer brand or location. CDC is starting a database to track occupants of the trailers starting with the children.

1. FEMA will coordinate with CDC to let occupants know results of test.
Will visit all tested units and let them know results. 519 in sample.

2. Relocate to apartments

3. Relocate to Hotels

4. Relocate to pre-tested units

5. Provide case works to help relocate. Young Children/Elderly/in-firmed

6. Direct contracts with Hotels. Provided food and stipends. Temporary Storage of belongs, Boarding of Pets. Moving Teams, Provide furniture.

7. Joint Fed and State relocation task force.

8. Teams are on ground. Info, 1-866-562-2381

Sounds like FEMA has a serious problem on their hands. The reverberations of Katrina and Rita will go on for years.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clancy_boy
If my home made me sick - I would move out. Sometimes what is FREE is not always good for you.
I would also, I think it will be viewed as the FEMA provided home made them sick. I just watched the Press Conference held by CDC and FEMA, the term of a deer in the headlights came to mind.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:38 PM   #14
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How about a little PVC?

A lot of attention is given to formaldahyde levels in trailers and homes these days and I think it should be, but the media usually plays this the hardest. Consequently, that is what is talked about the most. Poly-vinyls are usually what burns your eyes in the enclosed spaces of a trailer (along with other substances). Airstreams probably have as much as anybody else (only a guess). I can't spend more than a minute in a new one on the lot. In defense of them however, the heat and unventilated space of a trailer sitting on the dealer's lot serve to exacerbate the problem. The hotter the temp the more substance gets released into the air. I have heard of some companies (not rv manufacturers) who actually "bake" their product to render it as a material that will off-gas less.
Usually when a product is made of a synthetic or man-made material, especially by chemical processes, you will get a product that off-gasses something that isn't necessarilly good to breathe.

Here is a website for an organization that is dedicated to clean indoor air. They have a registry of companies and their respective materials or products that have met the organization's standards for indoor air quality. Keep in mind however the standards are designed around the same testing parameters that all scientists use when deciding if a substance is toxic for our consumption. Those people have been wrong in the past. I am not knocking scientists or the scientific process, just saying it, as everything else in life, is a human endevour that is always frought with fallacies as is anything else that is man made or controlled.

Companies, by the way, use these chemicals because they are currently the most cost effective and noone is making them do otherwise. There is no law against their use and noone who oversees the building process is mandating otherwise. But, the biggest factor in this is that we continue to buy the product the way it is made and the manufacturer isn't going to change anything until the market demands it. If a company starts building an rv that claims low or zero indoor emissions and their sales are good or taking away from the other's sales then they will change their products. That includes Airstream.
Sorry for the rambling diatribe, but I don't have the time to organize this into a more coherent statement.
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