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Old 07-27-2006, 06:13 AM   #1
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1966 26' Overlander
Woodstock , Georgia
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Chemical emissions in new trailers?

Formaldehyde ??


Testing conducted by the Sierra Club of air in FEMA trailers, like
some of these at a makeshift trailer park in Sabine Pass, has revealed
high levels of formaldehyde in many units in Mississippi.
Pete Churton/The Enterprise

An environmental group has found high levels of formaldehyde in travel
trailers used by Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi, which has
spawned court action against the travel trailer manufacturers.

There the local Sierra Club chapter tested the air quality in 31 travel
trailers and found all but two had formaldehyde levels at or above
those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the
report on the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club's Web site.

On the Net

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Occupational Safety & Health Administration

The Formaldehyde Council

Sierra Club's Mississippi Chapter

Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter Golden Triangle Group

Environmental Protection Agency

In addition to embalming, the pungent chemical has a variety of other
uses. Formaldehyde-based glues are used to make particle boards and
paneling widely used in cabinetry, countertops, moldings, furniture, shelf
and stair systems, flooring and many other household furnishings,
according to the Formaldehyde Council's Web site.

The chemical also is one of the bases for materials used in cars,
wrinkle-free clothing, money and other everyday items, according to the
council's Web site.

Formaldehyde's unpleasant odor, emitted from the paneling, and its
subsequent health effects are the reason some Mississippi residents, who
have been living in FEMA travel trailers since Hurricane Katrina
devastated their homes, are suing the trailers' manufacturers and the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, according to the Indiana South Bend
Tribune's Web site. Indiana is where several of the travel trailer
manufacturers are based.

In Mississippi, the residents claimed formaldehyde caused "a clear and
present danger to the health and well-being" of the residents,
according to the Tribune's Web site.

But the same can't be said of the travel trailer residents in Southeast

"It's the 'new car smell,'" said Charles Powell, who has been with
Beaumont's FEMA office since October, adding he isn't aware of any
complaints about the air quality in their travel trailers.

Powell said by phone that when a travel trailer is set up and the keys
turned over, the residents are advised to air the trailer out and keep
air circulating in it.

There are at least 10 travel trailer manufacturers FEMA relied on to
produce enough travel trailers to help with the need for temporary
housing along the Gulf Coast, he said. There are more than 15 different model
names of FEMA trailers in Sabine Pass and a handful of trailers aren't
marked with any brand names.

Bill Tetley of the Sierra Club's Golden Triangle Group stated in an
e-mail that the group hasn't been approached by anyone about their travel
trailer's air quality, which probably is what happened in Mississippi.

The local group doesn't have any immediate plans to do similar tests,
Tetley stated.

FEMA officials with the New Orleans public affairs office said they
have so few complaints with travel trailers in Southwest Louisiana that
they haven't tracked them. The trailer has been switched out in each of
those cases in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.

Health officials with the Port Arthur Health Department said they
haven't had any complaints of formaldehyde-related ailments, which include
burning eyes, irritated throat, sinus congestion, respiratory problems,
persistent coughing, rashes and nosebleeds.

Formaldehyde is considered a "probable human carcinogen (cancer-causing
agent)" by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mary Harris, a Sabine Pass resident, said she hasn't had problems with
her 35-foot FEMA trailer she has lived in since November. She goes to
the doctor regularly for checkups and hasn't had any unusual problems.

The FEMA trailer the Sniders have lived in since Dec. 28 has a warning
in the medicine cabinet that formaldehyde was used to manufacture some
of the trailer's parts, said Cheryl Snider, who is a member of the
Sabine Pass Organization for Disaster Relief.

She hasn't heard of anyone with complaints about the trailers' air
quality and probably would have through the relief organization, which has
fielded complaints about debris in ditches and concerns about

"It's not designed to be lived in for a long time," Cheryl Snider said.
"But as my husband says, (the travel trailer is) better than living in
a tent."

She remembers the pungent smell and how her eyes would burn when she
would go into their mobile home after it had been closed up for more than
a few hours in the Southeast Texas heat.

The likely suspect? Formaldehyde.

That was more than 30 years ago when the Sabine Pass resident and her
husband, Carl, had just gotten married.

In subsequent models the Sniders have lived in, like the one that was
flooded by Hurricane Rita last September, the walls were textured and
didn't have the paneling.

"I haven't seen any of that in a long time," Carl Snider said.
(409) 880-0727

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Old 07-27-2006, 06:16 AM   #2
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Tipton , Iowa
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Oh, man... yes! Just go stand in a new coach in the direct sun that hasn't been opened in days! Last time I did that, I lasted less than 30 seconds before I was smokin' for the door gasping for breath with watering, burning eyes and starting to scratch all over! Geez!

havin' to fix my broken Airstreams since 1987...
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Old 07-27-2006, 06:20 AM   #3
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1966 26' Overlander
Woodstock , Georgia
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The member that sent me this article had that very problem while shopping for a new Airstream....maybe someone can respond as to what the "half life" is of this stuff.
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:07 AM   #4
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Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 23
Hello Alansd,
Just recieved an e-mail concerning an airfilter for Formadehyde......thanks for bringing this subject up for disscusion.....
Dear Becky and other Sierra Club Colleagues,

ANY carbon filter will remove formaldehyde from the air. The important questions are:

1. How long does the filter last? This will depend upon air flow and the concentration of formaldehyde and other organics in the air. These materials adsorb (not absorb, adsorb. The process of adsorption occurs when air contaminant molecules adhere to the surface of the charcoal carbon particles. This is the same mechanism of action as charcoal filters in air-purifying respirators).

2. How many cubic feet will the air purifying unit clean? From this one can determine how many units need to be in each trailer. I recommend these be calculated using 5-10 air exchanges per hour. (Divide the volume of the room by the cfm fan rate of the air purifier. One air exchange is the turn over of the air in the total cubic feet of the room) More than this will result in incomplete removal of the organic contaminants (air movement across the filter is too fast).

NOTE that good, high-quality air purifiers can be purchased at a fraction of the cost quoted below!

Mary C. DeVany, MS, CSP, CHMM
DeVany Industrial Consultants
14507 NW 19th Ave.
Vancouver, WA98685-8003USA
Phone: (360) 546-0999
Home: (360) 576-1975
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:11 AM   #5
2 Rivet Member
Phoenix , Arizona
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Posts: 23
To Airstream,

My name is Bob Mariano, my wife and I and also many of our friends are interested in purchasing an Airstream Trailer. However, after an experience we had at a dealership in Phoenix, AZ and also the article we have read concerning the resins used in the building process for many of the materials, we have concerns of the toxic gases that emitted and both immediate and long-term health risks.

This isn't something we just read about, as I said we experienced this first hand at the dealership we visited, in all of the Airstream trailers we walked into. Our eyes burned and watered so much we had to leave the a consumer our concerns are justified, and also to let other users of Airstream Trailers to know about this as well. I am a member of Airstream Forums online and have posted this article and concerns there as well.

I would like to know if Airstream Trailers have been tested for these gases, and if so if they have been tested by an independent party, such as the Sierra Club did in the article? Also what kind of glue or resins that are used in the building process? Also, if when ordering one of the Trailers if an individual can get all solid wood cabinets, ie., shelves, doors, everything, to eliminate as much particle board or resins as possible?

We are impressed about the quality and construction of your product, and have talked to many satisfied customers, however, we are definitely concerned about this Formaldehyde issue.

This e-mail will also be posted to the Airstream Forum to keep the members there updated.

Looking forward in hearing from you.


Bob Mariano

Airstream Members,
Hope this e-mail finds you and your family safe and in good health, I've been really busy traveling for work these past few weeks and haven't been online for a while. Bob, my wife and I went to a dealership here in Phoenix,AZ, actually in Mesa about 3 weeks ago to look at some new Airstream trailers. We wanted to see the layout of the Safarfi FB model, which he had one on the lot. Needless to say it was about 100plus degrees that day and the Airstream was outside in the lot..........As the salesman opened the trailer and we went in and looked around our eyes started to burn and water instantly, we both had to leave the trailer the time I figured it was the lack of ventilation and from the gassing effect from the Formaldehyde which was increased by the temperatures.
We looked at other trailers as we walked around and had the same effect, however not as bad.
Well, to make a long story short, as I came home yesterday from my trip and I got online I noticed this story about FEMA trailers that sheltered tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents which were homeless by Hurricane Katrina that had high levels of Formaldehyde after being tested by the Sierra Club.
Bob, this article is very interesting, I believe the Airstream Trailer we looked at contained very high levels of was a 2005 model.
I like to share this to article which can be accessed online at
I really don't want to alarm everyone or over react, however I feel this needs to be brought to the attention of the readers of the Forum. As you know, I am new to the forum and was wondering if you can post this to other members so we can share this and have discussings about this article and the subject of Formaldehyde health effects concerning Airstream trailers. Have any members experienced any health or side effects from their trailers? I believe there are a number of us who really would like to know. I really would appreciate it if you can help me out with this matter, again thanks.
Bob J Mariano
P.S. Any member can reach me at my personal e-mail

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Old 07-27-2006, 11:24 AM   #6
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Tampa , Florida
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Posts: 72
I was just on an Airstream lot this past weekend in Tampa. I could not spend more than a minute in each trailer for the noxious fumes. My eyes burned for the next half hour after leaving the lot.
I spent some time studying these issues when in graduate school for architecture. The things in our homes that contribute to bad air quality would amaze you. Formaldehyde, unfortunately is not the only issue here. There is also off gassing from almost every material being used in all of today's trailers. The wall and floor coverings and plastics all emit gasses that you will smell long before the formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is also present in the plywood of the older trailers. This is why I will be doing a frame off restore when I finally purchase an older trailer. There are a lot of alternative building materials available today that can be used to insure that time spent in a house or trailer will be "chemical free."
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:55 AM   #7
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Phoenix , Arizona
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Posts: 23
wanderer........great wife and I also looked at AS trailers on a dealer site in Mesa........had to walk out, eyes burning and watering.........your idea to use other materials is a great idaea, however AS should offer the same choices when ordering a new AS. I sent them an e-mail concerning this issue however, haven't heard from them yet.......
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Old 07-27-2006, 12:27 PM   #8
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It would seem to me that Airstream products would be better than most because the shell is all aluminum,not wood and paneling.The interiors are either hardwood in the Classics and laminate in the other products.
I don't believe any furniture is made up of particle board, their SE products have aluminum walls with no coverings. Based on the article the key is that once you start using the product keep it ventilated ,running vent fans,AC's or open windows.
I just think all products can have something in them that can be determined to be harmful, if we use them wisely they are not a problem.
My two cents.
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