Born on the Bayou

by Renee

February 14, 2008

I was. I seriously was born on a bayou. Bayou Teche. My whole family is from three small towns in southern Louisiana. Lafayette, Broussard, and New Iberia. So when Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita through our entire nation into a tailspin of heartbreak and anger, I was particularly emotional. Luck was with my family that August because neither storm did much damage to my family’s homes but instead nestled either side of my hometowns.

My little family, who has resided in Southern Florida, (a hurricane mecca in its own right) since 1987 and travel frequently to Acadiana (that’s what the Cajun’s call southern Louisiana). For Thanksgiving of 2006, we visited a cousin stationed in the National Guard in New Orleans. And I traveled the Ninth Ward with a dear of friend of many Greenpeace staff. Shylia Lewis. In 2004 we helped her build a Habitat for Humanity home for her family that was toxic free. You can read her Greenpeace story here. The Habitat houses on her block had the least amount of damage of all and Shylia said it was because those homes were built with love. I’m no sap even if it is Valentines Day, but I think she’s on to something.

The reason I want to talk about the Gulf Coast today is because (1) communities and families are still recovering and they need our help and (2) the toxic contamination from these horrific storms has been outrageous and not widely covered, in fact covered up.

An article came out today from the CDC in Atlanta that discusses the toxic fumes Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims have been living in since 2005. There has been high levels (five times as much as in modern homes) of formaldehyde found in the trailors that FEMA gave to a large amount of Gulf Coast families. CDC announced that FEMA (you know the kids who refused to take any responsibility for the lack of humanity shown from governmental agencies after the hurricane) should move people out of those trailors immediately for fear of respiratory problems.

After complaining of headaches and nosebleeds and asking repeatedly to be moved out of the trailors, families finally talked to some lawyers and demanded that the trailors be checked out to see what could be causing their health concerns. CDC found it. Extremely high levels of toxic fumes.  

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen and the EPA has listed it as a probable carcinogen.  

Read the CNN story.  


Greenpeace isn’t the only group that has worked on building toxic free homes on the Gulf Coast.

Unity Homes is still helping people live toxic free.  

Habitat for Humanity is in dire need of volunteers.  

And don’t forget Jazz Festival is approaching!!  

Happy late Mardi Gras!



By Renee

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