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Old 02-15-2008, 05:50 PM   #1
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I hope I don't re-start any FEMA bashing, but with all the ongoing news coverage of problems with formaldehyde in those trailers, I could not help but note the absence of any news discussion as to whether a serious problem could exist in the gazillion RVs on the road-- many of which, like the Alpine, are used for full-time homes.

The possibility of a problem does not [yet] affect me as I am only an Alpine Wannabee.

Perhaps FEMA specified extra formaldehyde when they placed their orders [just joking], but seriously, I cannot help but be concerned when news coverage focuses upon the Gulf Coast problem and never seems to raise questions about RV formaldehyde in general-- even in the RV press.

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Old 02-15-2008, 05:50 PM   #2
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I hope I don't re-start any FEMA bashing, but with all the ongoing news coverage of problems with formaldehyde in those trailers, I could not help but note the absence of any news discussion as to whether a serious problem could exist in the gazillion RVs on the road-- many of which, like the Alpine, are used for full-time homes.

The possibility of a problem does not [yet] affect me as I am only an Alpine Wannabee.

Perhaps FEMA specified extra formaldehyde when they placed their orders [just joking], but seriously, I cannot help but be concerned when news coverage focuses upon the Gulf Coast problem and never seems to raise questions about RV formaldehyde in general-- even in the RV press.

Norm
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Old 02-15-2008, 06:58 PM   #3
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Norm,

Think about what happened. You had travel trailers meant for summer vacations, 2-3 weeks in length, hastily thrown together, then plopped down in late fall through winter, when people were trapped inside with cold weather and rain. These would be drafty (poor insulation) so people did not ventilate them, but kept everything closed and the heat turned up - trapping off-gassing materials inside. And it isn't just formaldehyde that is the problem - that is what they were testing for, but their are other adhesive/foam chemicals that will also off-gas.

The levels measured were in the part per billion level (which is really, really small). Most people would not be bothered by this level, but some people will have sensitivities to these chemicals.

Now add in poor construction and water intrusion, which leads to mold, and you have a real witches brew.

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Old 02-16-2008, 08:26 AM   #4
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Ok...dumb question(s)
Do all trailers/RVs, regardless of price, need to outgas formaldehyde for some period of time? ERGO the inexpensive trailers made for FEMA were not vented sufficiently, prior to use?

Or, did the companies that bid for the FEMA jobs make trailers with formaldehyde based materials that are not normally used?
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Old 02-16-2008, 08:38 AM   #5
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Given the need for a rapid response, my sense was that most of the "FEMA" trailers came right off dealer lots. Accordingly, the off-gassing of construction chemicals is a pretty standard occurance. I remember touring some new "high-end" Fleetwood coach products on hot, sunny days that made my eyes water--and it wasnt the "beautiful" interiors either.
PS--Ive noticed this in a couple brand new Alpines too.
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Old 02-16-2008, 08:50 AM   #6
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When I heard this " <span class="ev_code_BLUE">news</span>" I was reminded that if I analyze news, I can see that most "news" is:
1) not new,
2) not factual (more opinion & slant than fact),
3) not proportional (teeny tiny problems are presented as though they represent all of life as we know it), and
4) not relevant.
I'll bet less than 2% of trailer occupants had/have any issues due to formaldehyde. After all, we don't see widespread off-gassing problems among motorhome and trailer fulltimers (at least I don't, does anybody else here?). A better question to ask is what the Hey are these folks doing in those trailers still, and not in more standard rented habitations and WORKING FOR A LIVING????
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Old 02-16-2008, 10:01 AM   #7
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I have experience leading particleboard, MDF, and OSB plants that used formaldehyde-based resins in manufacture. RVs were a small customer base among many using these products.

There are differences in formaldehyde -- for example, most particleboard and MDF is made with urea formaldehyde (UF), an "interior" i.e., no water contact resin. OSB is usually made with phenol formaldehyde (PF) or in some cases an isocyanate-based resin, both of which are "exterior", meaning limited water contact is OK during construction.

Off-gassing will be more noticeable in UF resins than PF resins. Some manufacturers use UF resins that emit more than others, because it costs more to use lower emission resins. Generally the industry follows a low off-gassing European emission standard, called E-1, but not always, especially where cost is an issue.

Lower priced travel trailers use a lot of particleboard and MDF made with UF and overlay some of it with thin veneers, paper, or vinyl to look like wood, along with a lot of cheaper carpeting and upholstery. They also use particleboard and MDF in a lot of structural applications, like supporting bedframes or dinettes, or even subfloors, and this is not always coated. All this material adds up to more off-gassing and it takes a while for the material to pass the initial off-gassed stage. Usually this happens within a few months. If you have ever had unpainted new particleboard shelves in closets in a new house, you have smelled this until they shelves were painted, which stopped the off-gassing.

This is why FEMA told people to open their windows and get some air circulation - to hasten the time for the materials to stabilize with outside air. A lot of these trailers probably didn't get a lot of outside air circulation -- built quickly in the factory, closed up, moved to the site, etc., and hot temperatures not helping. But they should get better with outside air movement. And Engineer Mike is right, a small portion of the population has more allergy-type reactions to off-gassing of formaldehyde.

The reasons we don't have problems with off-gassed formaldehyde in our Alpine coaches are:

1) There's very little, if any, particleboard or MDF in them -- just a lot of hardwood lumber in cabinets and plywood in the drawers, which won't emit much formaldehyde because the veneer layers seal most of the surface area from escaping resin fumes.
2) There's not a lot of carpet or upholstery in our coaches; lots of Euroleather, tile, and wood flooring.
3) The subfloor, which is OSB, is made mostly with isocyanate resins that bind with the wood during manufacture and don't off-gas (their off-gassing is an issue during manufacture and has to be managed in the manufacturing plant, but is almost non-existant once the board is manufactured) Also the subfloor is sealed and covered with glue and tile or flooring.

The solutions we recommended for preventing UF off-gassing are 1)give it lots of air so it can complete the off-gassing and stablize in a few months, 2) seal it with a coating or laminate that prevents it from off-gassing, which doesn't always happen in cheap applications.

That's my for what it's worth -- I wouldn't worry about our coaches. I have a sensitive nose to formaldehyde off gassing from my years in particleboard and MDF manufacturing and I've yet to smell much of it in an Alpine Coach.
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Old 02-16-2008, 03:26 PM   #8
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I just went out for a quick whiff of that new-coach-off-gassing (smell). Smells purdy
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Old 02-16-2008, 03:28 PM   #9
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I love the smell of formaldehyde in the morning.
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Old 02-16-2008, 04:06 PM   #10
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Nice write up OldForester. Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2008, 05:17 PM   #11
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Route66 and Mike: Your "sniff sniff" comments above do help explain some of your earlier posts on this forum.
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Old 02-16-2008, 07:08 PM   #12
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What a cool forum: great information plus couple good laughs at the same time!

Good reality check about what appears in 'the news'.

Anyone read Michael Crichton's novel "State of Fear" ? Good perspective into the Global Warming 'news'.
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Old 02-17-2008, 05:41 AM   #13
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Bludog:
Anyone read Michael Crichton's novel "State of Fear" ? Good perspective into the Global Warming 'news'.
</div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yes! I read it and liked his no nonsense approach to the science of climate. I follow the Climate Audit Forum because the posters seem to put science before political hysteria. (We are experiencing a "pause" in global warming here in Minnesota)

Forum main page http://www.climateaudit.org/phpBB3/
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Old 02-17-2008, 07:54 AM   #14
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Also check out Bjorn Lomborg's books. He uses the same data as the environmental groups, but rather than a 10 year period, he will look at 100+ year terms - - and some amazing things show up when you do that.
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