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Old 04-10-2008, 02:01 PM   #1
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Formaldehyde in Forest River Products

Has anyone talked to anyone at Forest River to get a statement from them about formaldehyde levels in their trailers? If you read the articles about the FEMA trailers, it is apparently an issue in some trailers. Now, I'm not saying that Forest River has a problem. I'm just wondering the degree to which Forest River has worked to minimize the existence of formaldehyde in their travel trailers. I have a call in to the Sales group at the Surveyor factory to ask about this issue. I will leave a follow-up post if I am able to speak with them directly about this issue. I'd feel more comfortable with our recent Surveyor purchase if I knew that they have proactively addressed the issue of formaldehyde emissions. Hopefully they are using products with more sophisticated glues that reduce emissions.
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Old 04-10-2008, 07:40 PM   #2
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Interesting Topic...
Not wanting to scare anyone but if you are experiencing symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning or are smelling a pungent gas odor this may be some good info.

For those interested in reading a FEMA article on Formaldehyde And Travel Trailers dated July 20, 2007, click here.

Another article on Roaming Time states "A report on the ABC News website on June 4th, 2007 alleges that a Mississippi couple who bought a trailer "began to suffer strange symptoms: burning sensations in their eyes, splitting headaches and even nosebleeds." The RVer contacted the Sierra Club and the club provided him with formaldehyde test kits.

Formaldehyde effects on health (US Environmental Agency): Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.10 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions.
The RVer tested and found formaldehyde levels of 0.42 according to the article. He then followed the Sierra Club's suggestion and closed up and "baked off" his trailer with heaters and then ventilated it for 3 days. It's then reported that retesting found levels of 0.37 - once again considerably above the US Environmental Agency figure of 0.10 quoted above (in the red box.)

The RVer's doctor told him that there are no tests for formaldehyde poisoning but it was "highly suspected" in the case of him and his wife."
To view the entire info on this site click here.

Looks like Forest River Inc. was being sued in this article... click here.

A more recent article dated March 4, 2008 by knoxnews states Forest River as one of four brands that have higher levels of formaldehyde. click here to see the article. One last article click here.

A buddy of mine purchased a 2007 Rockwood and complained of a burning sensation in the eyes , headaches and a smell in his trailer. I have not experienced this in my 2008 of the same model. This in fact may be what he was experiencing.

This formaldehyde (pungent gas) appears to be gases released from new building materials (pressed wood, draperies etc.). Does this off-gassing level dissipate over time? I noticed on Forest River's web site on the WildCat it list the R-14 Roof Insulation (Formaldehyde Free) & R-14 Floor Insulation (Formaldehyde Free). Did not check other models and do not know at what point in time Forest River started with the Formaldehyde Free on this product.

Interested to see what type of feedback that we get on this subject.
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Old 04-10-2008, 09:31 PM   #3
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That is some interesting information. I would have preferred not to see FR listed. The media is capable of misrepresenting or exaggerating information to make some news. On the other hand, if this is a real problem we should know about it. I would say that I've not seen or heard of anyone on any RV forum complaining about these symptoms.

I would make the following GUESSES . .
1) The levels of formaldehyde are not that high in most trailers
2) The levels are probably worse when it is extremely hot
3) The levels are probably worse when a trailer is brand new (or house for that matter)
4) The levels abate over time
5) Storing the trailer with open vents/windows (if possible) may help reduce levels
6) Levels of sensitivity vary widely among individuals
7) Short exposures to higher levels (probably most camping trips) may lessen any health risks, if they exist.

But these are just guesses on my part. I would say I'm not particularly concerned; more curious.
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Old 04-10-2008, 11:30 PM   #4
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Every trailer by every manfacturer off-gasses, and its normal. So do houses cars, etc. Formaldahyde is in the glues, laminates, carpets and other materials. They only off-gas when new and it you ventilate a little after its been closed up, you're fine. The problem in the Katrina cases, as I have heard, is that the inhabitants lived full time boxed up in them, recirculating the air through AC and never cracking a window. The following is a fairly balanced article:

Dr. Lee Shull is a professional toxicologist who works as the corporate risk services director for Environmental Resources Management in Sacramento, Calif. He was invited by RVIA to expose the fallacy of the formaldehyde issue. Monday morning, he did an excellent job putting the issue in its proper context. Here are a few bullet points.
  • Formaldehyde is one of the most naturally occurring organic compounds in the universe
  • It is not unusual for people to be exposed to formaldehyde daily through clothing, carpeting, building materials and even food
  • It is often used as a disinfectant and antimicrobial solution
  • It is fed to livestock
  • It is found in soap and cosmetics
  • It is used in the food industry to process fish, cheese and juice
  • It has been used for 70 years to create exceptionally strong glue that securely bonds one material to another
  • When wood products are manufactured using glue, virtually all the formaldehyde is consumed in the process. In fact 99 percent of the compound used is chemically bonded into the materials. Less than 1 percent is considered “free formaldehyde” which is released over time as a gas. The news media, on the other hand, frequently suggests that 100 percent of the formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process is available as an “off gas” which is harmful to humans, Dr. Shull said.
Air samples were taken daily on 96 FEMA trailers over a 14-day period. Two groups of trailers were sampled. Group A turned on air conditioners and left the bathroom vent open. Group B shut off the air conditioner, opened the windows and left the vents open. The goal was to see whether the concentration of formaldehyde could be altered below 0.3 parts per million (ppm), the point at which exposure may result in discomfort and irritation.

Group A, the users who shut the windows and recirculated air through the air conditioner, experienced irritating levels of formaldehyde gas 12 of the 14 days. But, Group B, which opened the windows as recommended, recorded less than 0.3 ppm after the fourth day. What a surprise.

Dr. Shull said there were other factors in the Gulf Region contributing to higher formaldehyde levels — factors the drive-by media chose to ignore, including:
  • The trailers were recently constructed and it takes time for the 1 percent of free formaldehyde to escape from wood products in order to be off gassed
  • The trailers were shut tight due to hot humid weather
  • Formaldehyde was also released from nearby rotting wood associated with downed trees and broken homes
  • People were also smoking indoors and tobacco products release their own formaldehyde
  • Gas cookers were often involved and they, too, produce formaldehyde
  • People were also exposed to cleaning agents and personal care products, like cosmetics, which release formaldehyde
Dr. Shull noted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Consumer Product Safety Commission and World Health Organization all have different standards as to what is and is not an acceptable level of formaldehyde concentration. As expected, the media picks the lowest level of “acceptable” concentration adopted by one of the agencies and portrays that number as undisputed fact.


Anyway, don't panic.
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Old 04-10-2008, 11:32 PM   #5
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I would say those are good guesses and I am not extremely concerned either but more on the curious side as well.

On the last link in my previous post you will see a statement by Mike McGeehin, a division director for the National Center for Environmental Health, in response to a "interim report" of trailers tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December and January. It reads "The typical U.S. indoor level for formaldehyde about is about 30 parts per billion, he said. Health concerns normally occur at 300 parts per billion and those with "sensitivities" start showing symptoms at about 100 parts per billion, McGeehin said.

Symptoms may include irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and mucous membranes.

According to the report, 56 percent of the Gulfstream trailers tested had 100 ppb-levels. In that grouping, Forest River had 44 percent; Pilgrim, 51 percent; and Keystone 53 percent.

In the 300 ppb category, Keystone led the four with 11 percent, followed by Gulfstream with 8 percent, Forest River with 5 percent and Pilgrim with 3 percent, according to the report.

To sum it up 5% of the Forest River trailers tested fell into the category of 300 ppb of health concerns and 44% in the 100 ppb sensitivities category. I would speculate that after this was made public in the media last year that many RV manufacturers are working on keeping formaldehyde levels down.

Keep us posted on the response that you receive from Forest River.
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:01 PM   #6
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My Keystone OUTBACK was terrible when I bought it. After a lengthy airing out process...it was better.

My new SALEM seemed equally bad when it was new on the dealers lot. It was sitting in the hot sun one day, and it nearly knocked you over!
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:11 PM   #7
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Unbiased?

He was invited by RVIA to expose the fallacy of the formaldehyde issue.

With all due respect, that doesn't seem like the basis for an unbiased evaluation. Invited to debunk at an RV industry show.

That being said, he may very well have made some valid points.

I just plan on giving mine a good, constant airing out once I can get it inside my storage barn.
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:23 PM   #8
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My Puma was pretty bad when i bought it and horrible when it was on the lot when we first looked at it. after airing it out though it was fine. i just uncovered it last night after having it closed up for about 4 months and it had a little smell to it,but more just a new smell then Formmaldehyde.
I wonder why they even use products that give off formaldehyde anyway. Why not just use normal building materials as in homes. Home trailers seem to have this same problem though as travel trailers. My mom and dad live in Ocala Florida and bought a mahufactured home in a community and there was a notice in it that there was formaldehyde in some of the products.
I think they might just be Pre-embalmiing the old people down there in florida though so that's one less step when they croak. ( i know, im going to hell!!!)
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Old 04-11-2008, 04:18 PM   #9
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What does the law say about posting info about Formaldehyde if a manufacture uses it in home and RV constuction. My sister bought a home about 15 year and Formaldehyde was used as part of the insolation in the walls. I had noticed that on each window frame in the house there was a warning label and it said " keep ventalated due to exccess gas from Formaldehyde Insolation." This was a very bright RED sticker. There is a sticker on the side of your camper, There is a RVIA seal of compliance that certifies that the manufacture has followed all guide lines according to ANSI-A119.2, My question?, is testing done by the manufacture?, and if so who takes responsiblity.....QC? And should warning labels be attached to the windows on RV's. Maybe the manufacture should give the consumer an MSDS on the materials used for construction. Everything that is manufactured by law has to have an MSDS and it should be made public form the RV manufactures. I wouldn't put a lot of faith in the RVIA seal, Who's there to enforce it and is it being enforced?
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:28 PM   #10
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Personally I don't give this issue a second thought. There is plenty of things to worry about nowadays, and something that can be solved simply by opening a window seems inconsiderable.
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