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Carbon Monoxide Leak Injures Dozens in Elementary School


December 4, 2012 — Experts are blaming a faulty furnace for a carbon monoxide leak at an Atlanta elementary school that sickened at least 42 students and seven adults. Finch Elementary School lacked carbon monoxide detectors, which might have prevented the gas from poisoning dozens of children. The firefighters who responded detected carbon monoxide levels of 1,700 parts per million, which is enough to kill an adult.

The leak was discovered after several children started feeling ill and light-headed. Dozens of children were given oxygen and taken to a local hospital in ambulances. About 500 other children and adults were evacuated. The children will attend classes at another school until fire officials clear the building for use.

Local parents reported concern that the school lacked carbon monoxide detectors, and said their children will not return to the school until the detectors are installed. The battery-powered detectors are sold wholesale for about $15.

Only the states of Connecticut and Maryland require carbon monoxide detectors in schools. Some experts have warned about the risk of continued low-level exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning in schools, which could potentially cause learning disabilities. Children exposed to carbon monoxide may report feeling nauseous or light-headed at school, but feel better when they get home.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO2) is a poisonous gas that has no odor or color. It is emitted by faulty appliances, furnaces that lack adequate ventilation, generators, and more. Severe injury, brain damage, and death can occur when individuals breathe the gas instead of oxygen.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light-headedness

The initial symptoms are often mild, which is why carbon monoxide poisoning is sometimes called the “silent killer.” Symptoms are also similar to the flu, but victims of poisoning typically do not have fever and they feel better when they go outside.

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