Democrats and Republicans played out a partisan fight Wednesday, over who is to blame for housing hurricane victims in toxic trailers.

About 1 million people were displaced after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Thousands were sent to live in emergency travel trailers that had poisonous levels of formaldehyde. Prolonged exposure can lead to breathing problems and is believed to cause cancer too.

On Wednesday, in Congressional hearings, Democrats said the manufacturers should have taken more tests. Republicans blamed the government for not having set sufficient standards.

There’s probably some truth on both sides, but amidst all the finger-pointing, Gulf Stream Coach (which received more than $500 million in trailer contracts) said the company didn’t need new tests – or standards. They knew formaldehyde levels were as much as forty-five times above acceptable levels, but company CEO Jim Shea said the results were deemed “irrelevant information” – because the Federal Emergency Management Agency already knew the levels were high.

It’s a great opportunity for politicians to score their points, but the facts remain. For years, employees from Gulf Stream Coach, have said they suffer effects from formaldehyde exposure, including nose bleeds, shortness of breath, dizziness, and bleeding ears. Gulf Coast trailer dwellers have complained about the trailers almost since day one.

The true tragedy is Katrina victims still occupy 15,000 travel trailers in the Gulf Coast. What we need are not more hearings. Gulf Goast victims need healthy homes.

This Saturday, in Miami, community organizers will gather to discuss the housing crisis across the Gulf Coast Region, and within Miami itself. Sustainability: we know what it’s not (eg. FEMA trailers. ) But what is it, exactly? And what models exist? This is the sort of conversation that needs to be part of the election season conversation — but probably won’t be. It will be the topic of Live From Main Street, the second of five town-hall style meetings, produced by the Media Consortium with GRITtv. For more on Live From Main Street, go to And come out Saturday, to the Lyric Theater, to make your voice heard.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.