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Formaldehyde testing could begin soon on Miss. Cottages

Testing could begin in the next couple of weeks to determine formaldehyde levels in Mississippi Cottages, the structures designed to replace FEMA travel trailers in Hurricane Katrina damaged areas, an agency spokeswoman says.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency recently received guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on acceptable formaldehyde levels in the homes and CDC is developing testing standards, said MEMA spokeswoman Lea Crager-Stokes.

Stokes said that if testing services require the work to be bid, the start time will be extended.

FEMA trailers were set up to provide temporary housing for families displaced by the 2005 hurricane that slammed the Mississippi Gulf Coast and flooded portions of New Orleans. The trailers were tested last year and found to have formaldehyde levels much higher than the 10 to 30 parts per billion found in new homes. The tests were ordered after families living in the trailers complained of trouble breathing, skin irritations and headaches.

An estimated 2,500 Mississippi Cottages have been delivered in the past year and about 200 are being held out for nonprofit groups that are developing plans to create a subdivision of the cottages.

Stokes said manufacturers of the Mississippi Cottages had to build with the same type of materials used in a standard stick-built home.

“We require them to use the higher standard products,” she said. “There’s certainly things like carpets that aren’t regulated.”

Stokes said the smaller cottages would normally have higher levels of formaldehyde than a larger home. Smoking cigarettes inside the homes also raises the level.