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Waxman: FEMA and Industry Hurt Consumers

During today’s oversight hearing on toxic trailers used by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina, one thing has become clear: hurricane victims have been failed twice. "I think we have example of government and industry working together to hurt the consumers," said committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) at today’s hearing.

The hearing, which is still going on, is focussing on the dangerous levels of formaldehyde found in the temporary structures. So far, lawmakers have discussed how Gulf Stream Coach, which had the largest FEMA trailer contract, had found that formaldehyde levels were above safe levels but failed to notify FEMA. Gulf Stream chairman Jim Shea testified that his company did not carry out scientific testing, but merely screening. The results of the screening never made it to FEMA.

Gulf Stream also gave some possible causes that could drive formaldehyde levels up: cooking fish; the existence of household cleaners, cosmetics, medicines; or mold created by backed-up sewage. Yeah, lay off the salmon and cod, Katrina victims! And the common household goods!

When asked if any of these factors contributed to the toxic formaldehyde levels, the Centers for Disease Control’s Dr. Michael McGeehin testified that they did not.

As both Democrats and Republicans on the Oversight Committee pointed out, FEMA looked the other way. Meanwhile, the trailer manufacturers didn’t try to draw attention to the problem.

Waxman said, "[The] Gulf Stream trailer manufacturer didn’t feel any moral or other responsibility to let FEMA and the families know that they had done tests in these trailers and found high levels of formaldehyde."

Yesterday, CBS News talked with two Gulf Stream workers who helped build the trailers. They said the company knowingly used low-quality building materials — so poor, they said, that the employees suffered from the same symptoms experienced by those who lived in the trailers. Check out CBS’s interview with the Gulf Stream employees here:

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