Hurricane Katrina survivors won a court battle involving FEMA trailers on Friday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was to start regulating formaldehyde, a chemical used to treat wood products, in December. The chemical has been linked to nose and throat cancers as well as respiratory ailments.

However, the agency decided to postpone enforcement for at least a year, saying companies needed more time to prepare for the new rule.

The New Orleans-based group A Community Voice fought back, noting that Hurricane Katrina survivors were sickened by the formaldehyde used to manufacture components of the trailers deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for use as temporary housing.


"There is no simple 'long-term fix' for the side effects of formaldehyde poisoning, since the poisoning begins immediately. ... So, the Formaldehyde Emissions Standards must be put in place immediately. We have waited far too long," A Community Voice Vice President Vanessa Gueringer wrote in a statement issued Friday.

Jeffrey White, a federal judge in California's northern district, agreed. He ordered the EPA and plaintiffs to report back March 9 with a timely plan to enforce the rule.

"At long last, the EPA will protect people from hazardous formaldehyde in everyday furnishings and building materials," wrote Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented the plaintiffs.

Since Katrina, FEMA has changed the type of temporary housing offered to survivors of natural disasters.

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