BY REBECCA SHEEHAN
What is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden death or illness? Ding, ding! The answer is carbon monoxide. On Monday in a Georgia elementary school, 42 students and 7 adults were hospitalized and 500 forced to evacuate when the gas reached an unsafe level.
Atlanta fire Capt. Marian McDaniel told The Associated Press that firefighters detected high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) near a furnace at Finch Elementary School. Firefighters responded to the scene and found people sickened from the gas, but luckily no one was unconscious.
In the state of Georgia, carbon monoxide detectors are not required in schools. Interestingly, New Jersey also has no established law that mandates CO detectors in all schools. A model environmental policy for schools published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools install carbon monoxide detectors near sources of combustion in buildings.
“Most schools around the state have carbon monoxide detectors in their boiler rooms or immediately outside their boiler rooms,” said Charlie Miele to NJ 101.5, Director of the New Jersey Buildings and Grounds Association. “Do all schools have them, no. Should they have them, of course. We have them in our homes, so we need to have them in our schools.”
According to a press release by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy 61 New Jerseyans reported CO exposures to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Toxic fumes created by improperly used generators claimed the lives of five people.
As reported by 101.5, Miele addresses the CO detector problem very simply:
“Is it something the state should look at yes… is it something the state Department of Education should look at, definitely,” he said.
To learn how to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, refer to the Center of Disease Control at: http://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm.