Could Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Happen at Your Child's School?

Only two states–Connecticut and Maryland– require schools to install carbon monoxide alarms.

After 500 students and faculty were evacuated this week from Finch Elementary for carbon monoxide poisoning, other parents are beginning to wonder if the same could happen at their child's school.

Some of the young students passed out and more than 40 of them–along with 10 adults in the school– were taken on stretchers in ambulances to local hospitals after being exposed to the high levels of the colorless, odorless gas.

Only two states–Connecticut and Maryland– require schools to install carbon monoxide alarms. The incident at Finch, which made national headlines, could spur more legislation requiring these detectors in schools throughout the country.

Steve Alford, spokesman for Atlanta Public Schools, said the incident at Finch "definitely raised red flags."

The highest readings of carbon monoxide at Finch on Monday was 1,700 parts per million, according to news outlets. Firefighters said the levels of carbon monoxide inside the school were the highest ever recorded in the city, according to WSB-TV. At levels of 1,600 ppm, a person could die within three hours.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause brain injury and even death.

The school district has now launched what Alford called an "exhaustive investigation to make sure this never happens again."

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is very serious and we're very happy that everyone is OK," Alford told Buckhead Patch on Tuesday afternoon. "We have to make sure that we put the proper processes in place so this can't happen again."

Investigators have identified a malfunctioning boiler as the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning; however, they have not yet released the specific cause of the poisoning related to the boiler.

Insurance officials should finish their inspection of the boiler Thursday, according to WSB, and the boiler is being sent back to the manufacturer.

APS is looking into obtaining carbon monoxide alarms for all schools in the district, but must adhere to "strict procurement guidelines," Alford said.

Alford said The Home Depot has offered to provide free carbon monoxide detectors for APS, but does not yet have full details about the offer. At hardware stores, the detectors start at about $30 each.

The poisoning incident has spurred "a closer and more critical look at how we can keep our students safe," Alford said.


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