Trailers OK'd for more Greensburg residents

07/29/2007 1:01 AM

01/24/2008 5:15 PM

More families displaced by a tornado that destroyed most of Greensburg have been given the green light to move into some of the temporary mobile homes sitting vacant in town.

Just over one-third of the 300 mobile homes brought in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are occupied. The rest were left empty as FEMA looked into concerns that formaldehyde levels in some mobile homes on the Gulf Coast -- taken there after hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- were causing people to get sick.

Local FEMA officials couldn't say why the occupancy ban on new families moving into the Greensburg mobile homes was lifted while the ban remains in place along the Gulf Coast.

Mitzi Sessers, a nurse who heads the Kiowa County Health Department in Greensburg, said none of the people who have been staying in FEMA mobile homes since a May 4 tornado wiped out more than 90 percent of the town have complained of health problems.

Formaldehyde is used to make products such as carpets, latex paint, glue and pressure-treated wood. Some people appear more sensitive to the chemical than others, reporting skin and respiratory problems.

Of the 120,000 travel trailers and mobile homes provided to hurricane victims, there have been 206 complaints of strange odors, FEMA reported.

FEMA has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the indoor air quality of the Gulf Coast mobile homes. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances tested new, unoccupied FEMA trailers last summer, and FEMA issued a report suggesting that residents ventilate the homes until the formaldehyde levels naturally degrade.

Sessers said the mobile homes in Greensburg have had several months of ventilation. She said fliers have been handed out to residents informing them of symptoms and providing a phone number to call if they begin having health problems.

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