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From: Bart (
Subject:         Lawmakers Launch Probe Into Whether GOP-controlled CDC Withheld Information About Long-Term Cancer Risks of FEMA Trailers
Date: February 12, 2008 at 9:08 am PST

Lawmakers Launch Probe Into Whether CDC Withheld Information About Long-Term Cancer Risks of FEMA Trailers
[Feb 11, 2008]

In a letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding on Wednesday, three members of the House Committee on Science and Technology said the panel is launching an investigation into "disturbing allegations" that agency officials withheld vital information about the potential cancer risks associated with trailer housing provided to Gulf Coast residents after Hurricane Katrina, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The committee also plans to investigate whether CDC retaliated against Atlanta scientist Christopher De Rosa after he sought to make the risks public.

The committee will investigate whether CDC might have intentionally delayed or avoided examining the long-term cancer threat posed by formaldehyde fumes in trailers purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house residents after the August 2005 hurricane. FEMA originally said that the trailers were safe for use with adequate ventilation.

According to the letter, formaldehyde is a carcinogen that has no safe level set for long-term exposure and has been linked to nose and throat cancers. FEMA officials had asked CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to examine the health effects of short-term formaldehyde exposure, defined as less than two weeks, even though many Gulf Coast residents have lived in the trailers for months or years, the Journal-Constitution reports. According to the committee letter, De Rosa had raised questions about the health effects of long-term exposure, and agency managers knew he would insist that the report not focus solely on the short-term effects. De Rosa, who led the division of toxicology and environmental medicine as part of the agency since 1992, said he was demoted from his job in fall 2007 to the position of "special assistant."

The letter said, "The agency's conduct has called into question its ability to investigate public health hazards accurately and appropriately in the future," adding, "Apparently in retaliation, Dr. De Rosa was removed from his post and given a job ... that appears to include no real responsibilities." According to the letter, the investigation also will look into allegations that CDC halted the publication of a separate report involving De Rosa, which indicated "disturbing potential health issues" in the Great Lakes region of the U.S.

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