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Old 08-08-2010, 09:30   #1
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"Toxic" FEMA trailers?

I've been looking into possibly getting a travel trailer, and have come across references to the famous FEMA trailers that were purchased for Katrina. There is a big stink, pardon the pun, about how these have "unsafe" airborne levels of formaldehyde and the government is catching flak over having used them to house poor hurricane victims, or reselling them at all. Apparently, they are now supposed to have warning stickers on them to the effect that humans should not actually live in them for extended periods of time.

However, a couple of points come to mind that bring the above into question. When Katrina hit, the government bought up nearly all the existing trailers on the market. So, these would seem to be the exact same trailers that people have been vacationing in and/or living in for decades. Contrary to Political Correctness, the evil, greedy capitalists who make a profit manufacturing trailers are unlikely to deliberately poison their own customers, as that tends to be bad for repeat business. Suspiciously, the complaints seem to be against all FEMA trailers, not just one manufacturer.

The fine print of the complaints says that the interior air of the trailers has higher levels of formaldehyde than the outside air. Well, any new car fresh off the dealer's lot also has higher concentrations of various airborne chemicals than the outside air (that's why they have the "new car" smell). Some people have complained about headaches after having been in these trailers. I've been in freshly painted rooms, or enclosed spaces where someone was using glue, and gotten a headache. That doesn't mean you have to permanently condemn the whole building, it just means you open a window and air the place out for a few hours!

Maybe there really is something to this whole formaldehyde-in-trailers thing, but it sounds like people getting all worked up over nothing. However, I could be wrong about that. Does anyone have any first hand knowledge about these trailers?

The legitimate concerns about a FEMA trailer would seem to be whether it was trashed out and/or modified by a family previously living in it? Some of them appear to have been, for instance, retro-fitted with larger household 110 volt refrigerators (which makes them less suitable for traveling). Did quality control do down in the post-Katrina spending and building spree? Would a FEMA trailer really be a better buy than a regular used trailer? Is the stupid warning sticker going to mean that you can't resell the trailer later? If I buy one of the trailers with a warning sticker, can I still make enough money off the class action lawsuit to retire? Oops, just kidding on the last one
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Old 08-08-2010, 16:17   #2
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Their was another thread on this a few months back, apparently they are going to be put up for sale. Unfortunately our wise government would only sell them in lot's of like 200 trailers. Meaning you had to buy all 200 of them and get them moved off the lots within a very short time frame. Somebody's going to make a killing on them buying them for a 200 bucks a piece and them reselling them for thousands. I would imagine some things would have to be refurnished, i'd be more worried about them smelling like a ashtray or a meth den them the formaldehyde.
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Old 08-08-2010, 16:37   #3
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I've done a little further research, and apparently some of the trailers were designed and built for FEMA (as opposed to existing travel trailers purchased off the dealer's lot). The "FEMA Specials" are more like a mobile home, it that they may regular 110 volt refrigerators, and lack the various water tanks of real travel trailers. That means they have to be parked where there's a septic tank and require fresh water/power connections. Not really what I'm looking for. Unless I can still find a regular travel trailer, that hasn't been trashed, in with the other FEMA trailers...
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Old 08-13-2010, 02:46   #4
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The government has been selling huge numbers of trailers for a long time - over a year at least. Some of the lots were in the thousands of units. Sometimes they sell single trailers. Have a look - you might find something in your area.
"The one aim of these financiers is world control by the creation of inextinguishable debts." Henry Ford
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Old 08-31-2010, 07:39   #5
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i bought a travel trailer 6 mos. before katrina. yes, it reeked of formaldehyde, i opened the doors and windows and let it air out for three days. it is a gulfstream. problem solved.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:45   #6
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Bringing up an old thread here. I have also been doing a little research on these trailers for both myself and my parents. My research says that if you get a 'smelly' one you need to sweat the trailer out. Instructions say to park the trailer in direct sun all windows, doors and vents sealed to get the inside temperature as hot as possible. Then at night completely open the trailer up to ventilate. Three cycles is the recommended time frame to clear out all the volatile oils. Some even suggested using a portable electric space heater to really get the temperature up during the day. I live in Florida and there are big lots with hundreds of FEMA trailers for sale near me. If you are still looking for one try to find one specifically built for a handicap person. Larger door openings and much more room inside. All FEMA trailers have regular full size refrigerators, regular home toilets and no holding tanks. However holding tanks are not difficult to install for a handy person.
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Old 10-19-2010, 19:39   #7
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I'd be more worried about manufacture quality than fermaldehyde just based on the fact that travel trailers in general are produced basically at piece-rate and workers get payed more for producing more trailers. This coupled with the poor quality control that came from the massive number of Fema trailers produced and the speed at which they were turned out, makes me doubt there quality. Thats just my 2 cents though.
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Old 10-19-2010, 20:05   #8
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Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of foam. (It is what they use to "expand" the foam---to make the little air holes in the foam.) It is in new carpet pad, chairs, car seats, insulated trailer walls, etc.

"In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Pressed wood products made for indoor use include: particleboard (used as sub-flooring and shelving and in cabinetry and furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (used for decorative wall covering and used in cabinets and furniture); and medium density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops). Medium density fiberboard contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product."

As the foam ages, the gas slowly escapes.

In a small trailer, it tends to build up to high levels in the air.

Old Katrina trailers are likely safer than a new one.

Here is some good info:


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