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NCC asks FEMA to investigate 'toxic' trailers 

Washington, D.C., May 31, 2007 – The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) has called on Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator R. David Paulison to "to launch a full investigation into the health risks associated with the trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma."  

The NCC also called on FEMA to suspend selling the trailers until it is proven they are safe.  The call came in a letter to Paulison from the NCC's Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast [http://www.ncccusa.org/justrebuilding/].  It was signed by commission co-chairs, the Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC's president, and Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, past president of the NCC [complete text below].  

Members of Congress have also called for a probe into the trailers as well as Congressional hearings into the matter.  Reports have surfaced in recent months that some of the trailers contain toxic levels of formaldehyde. 

"For almost two years, victims of these storms have made FEMA trailers their home having lost almost all of their earthly possessions," wrote Livingston and Hoyt yesterday.  "Now many of those same people are finding that the place they thought would be a refuge for them during the rebuilding process is now potentially causing them, their children and other family members to suffer respiratory and other health problems—not the least of which is an increased risk for cancer. This is just unacceptable and appalling."  

The Special Commission has met several times since the storms changed the lives and landscape of the Gulf Coast.  They have visited the region listening to victims and officials including last week's visit to Beaumont, Texas to hear from those impacted by hurricane Rita.  The Commission also heard from representatives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and saw firsthand the work being done by people of faith to help victims of Rita rebuild.  A report card on governmental initial and ongoing response to the storms was issued by the Commission last February. 

An "Ecumenical Work Week" is being planned by the Special Commission for this August marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Church groups and their relief agencies have donated millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to help rebuild lives and communities all along the damaged and destroyed Gulf Coast.


National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

May 30, 2007 

R. David Paulison
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472 

Dear Mr. Paulison: 

We are writing on behalf of the National Council of Churches USA Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast to urge you to launch a full investigation into the health risks associated with the trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. We would also like for you to suspend sales of FEMA trailers until such time that it can be determined that the trailers are indeed safe, nontoxic dwellings for those living in them. 

For almost two years, victims of these storms have made FEMA trailers their home having lost almost all of their earthly possessions in the disasters. Now many of those same people are finding that the place they thought would be a refuge for them during the rebuilding process is now potentially causing them, their children and other family members to suffer respiratory and other health problems—not the least of which is an increased risk for cancer. This is just unacceptable and appalling.  

Reports that FEMA employees were warned that just inspecting the trailers could put them at risk for cancer because of high concentrations of formaldehyde only adds insult to injury as those who actually live in the trailers have received no such warnings. Something must be done immediately to ensure the safety and well-being of those who have already lost so much and are still struggling to rebuild their lives.  

The National Council of Churches is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches.  These 35 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states. Our congregations have been reaching out to the victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, providing food, clothing and shelter as needed, sending work groups to the region and making financial and other contributions to individuals, churches and organizations to help with the efforts to rebuild. In addition, the Special Commission has made numerous visits to the region to advocate for justice in rebuilding the region as well as to stand with and help those in the region as they rebuild. We have seen firsthand the struggles of the people as they attempt to heal and restore their lives.  

This is why we must insist that definitive and immediate action be taken to make sure that those living in the FEMA trailers are not in harm’s way. It is hard to imagine that after losing so much in a natural disaster, victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma have now been made vulnerable again to human fallibility by being exposed to toxic chemicals which may forever negatively impact their quality of life. 

We would welcome an opportunity to further discuss the safety of FEMA trailers with you and how we might work together to ensure the safety of the trailers. Rev. Leslie Tune and Cassandra Carmichael from our Washington Office will contact you to schedule a mutually beneficial time for us to meet. We look forward to having the opportunity to further discuss how this issue will be resolved and how we might be of assistance. 

Sincerely, 

Rev. Michael Livingston
President, NCCC
Co-Chair of the Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast 

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr.
Past President, NCCC
Co-Chair of the Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast 

cc: Gil H. Jamieson
Associate Deputy Administrator for Gulf Coast Recovery

 


NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org


 

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