Survivors of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for upending the enforcement of rules governing the safe use of formaldehyde.
An article from The Advocate explains why the issue is so important to some Louisiana residents, including members of the advocacy group “A Community Voice.”
“Formaldehyde is so dangerous for our health that A Community Voice is fighting to have it regulated more, not less,” explained the group’s secretary-treasurer, Debra Campbell. “We believe many of us have had harms to our health due to living in FEMA trailers after Hurricane Katrina […] We need more regulations of toxins, not less.”
According to Campbell and The Advocate, formaldehyde was used in the construction of emergency trailer shelters deployed to New Orleans and its surroundings after the city was ravaged by hurricanes in 2005.
The Center for Disease Control reports that formaldehyde can irritate the skin, eyes and airways.
In large amounts, it can cause or contribute to the development of cancer.
While FEMA has largely curtailed its use of the chemical in the construction of emergency shelters, A Community Voice and other advocates are upset at the EPA’s decision to put off restrictions on formaldehyde.
A recently-introduced rule would have governed the use of formaldehyde in a host of industries.
However, the regulation hasn’t yet been put into effect – set for adoption in September, the compliance date has delayed until December of next year.
In coordination with EarthJustice attorneys, A Community Voice and the Sierra Club filed a suit in San Franciscio court to force the EPA to adhere to an earlier deadline.
“EPA acted in blatant disregard of the Formaldehyde Act, Congress’ intent to put the standards in place expeditiously in order to protect public health,” particularly that of children, read the complaint.
“EPA believes that extension of these compliance dates and the transitional period … adds needed regulatory flexibility for regulated entities, reduces compliance burdens, and helps to prevent disruptions to supply chains while still ensuring that compliant composite wood products enter the supply chain in a timely manner,” they wrote.
The EPA explained its decision as a matter of practicality, saying industries need more time to adapt to the new standard.
Since Donald Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA has repealed, retracted or simply discontinued a number of regulations, ranging from water-body protection efforts to chemical safety standards.