Prism Analytical Technologies Donates Free Formaldehyde Testing Equipment for FEMA Trailers

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Air testing laboratory partners with researcher to determine toxic levels of formaldehyde still present in government FEMA trailers.

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Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, more than 150,000 FEMA mobile trailers are still in use all over the country, and are still emitting dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc., a leading U.S. air testing laboratory devoted to chemical identification and analysis of air contaminants and the developer of Home Air Check™, the premier home air quality test kit for the detection of airborne chemicals, announced that it has partnered with a researcher from the University of Oxford to test levels of the dangerous chemical formaldehyde still lingering in FEMA trailers originally sold to victims of Hurricane Katrina by the federal government as temporary, low-cost housing. Seven years later, more than 150,000 of these units are still in use, and thousands of their occupants are very ill.

University of Oxford medical anthropologist Nick Shapiro is using Prism-donated air testing equipment to perform formaldehyde tests in FEMA trailers originally dispatched to the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Region, and Prism is analyzing the air samples at no cost. The results of the testing are sobering. As reported by The Lens, an on-line non-profit news organization serving New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, FEMA trailer housing occupants in Mississippi showed levels of the carcinogen that exceeded levels deemed safe by the US government. The test indicated an exposure level of 105.6 parts per billion (ppb) within one trailer, which was sold by FEMA in 2008 to a retired Mississippi couple who had lost their home in the hurricane and could not afford to rebuild. In 2008, FEMA declared that a 16 ppb level of formaldehyde was acceptable in response to several lawsuits filed after Katrina. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average formaldehyde level in manufactured homes ranges from 15.5 ppb to 36.3 ppb. Many of the trailers tested exceeded 100 ppb levels of formaldehyde.

The Lens reports that these FEMA trailers are now located all across the United States, having been been sold via auction on the open market to unsuspecting buyers as shelters from recent natural disasters. A map of the current locations of these trailers as tracked by Shapiro and his associates can be found on Shapiro’s blog:

“We are very proud to be working with Nick in this important investigation,” said Prism’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Robert Freeman. “Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde causes very serious health risks.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the U.S Department of Health and the World Health Organization advise that formaldehyde causes cancer in individuals who are chronically exposed. The effects of formaldehyde exposure can vary from person to person, and can be particularly troublesome for chemically sensitive people. Symptoms of irritation can range from eye and skin irritation to respiratory distress, lung damage, and even death.

“Prism will continue to work with Nick and his team of researchers to conduct air quality tests in these FEMA homes,” said Freeman. “Just because someone has had the misfortune of losing their permanent home shouldn’t mean that they should lose their health, too.”

If you think you may be living in one of these mobile homes and would like to be considered for participation in this study, please complete an application here. Or if you have information about FEMA trailers being used or sold in your community, please contact Nick Shapiro at nicholas.shapiro(at)

About Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc.
Prism Analytical Technologies, Inc. is a recognized leader in the development and deployment of ambient air testing methodologies for Fortune 100 and 500 companies and environmental consultants across North America, South America, and Europe. Since 1992, Prism’s science-based technologies and team of advanced-degreed Analytical Chemists have helped clients solve indoor air quality and environmental challenges. Prism’s latest innovation, Home Air Check™ is a revolutionary indoor air quality assessment that is used specifically to test for airborne chemicals and actively growing mold in residential properties. From the chemical fingerprint of the home, Prism can then predict the sources of VOC contamination, giving home buyers and homeowners actionable information to use in locating and removing the offending sources, and thereby improving the overall home air quality. For more information visit

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Lisa Robillard
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