December 4, 2012 — A carbon monoxide leak at Finch Elementary School in Atlanta has sickened at least 42 children and seven adults. The school lacked carbon monoxide detectors, and the leak was discovered when four children became ill. Firefighters who responded found deadly levels of carbon monoxide levels near a furnace.
About 500 children were evacuated from the building. At least 42 children were taken to the hospital in ambulances with oxygen masks over to their faces. Fire officials said the school is being ventilated and will not reopen until it is cleared for occupancy. Children will attend nearby Kennedy Middle School until the school is safe to use.
Many parents said their children will not return to Finch until school officials install carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide leaks can be detected by a battery-powered detector, which costs about $15 wholesale.
Surprisingly, only two states (Connecticut and Maryland) require carbon monoxide detectors in schools. Most states do not require the detectors, which is concerning, because many children may be exposed to low-level poisoning every day. Children can be seriously injured by low-level exposure, which may produce learning disabilities.
Experts recommend that parents can look for symptoms of low-level exposure. The child may feel tired or nauseous at school, but better when they get home.
Carbon monoxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas that can be emitted by faulty appliances, blocked exhaust vents for heaters, fuel-powered generators, and more. Poisoning occurs when individuals breathe carbon monoxide instead of oxygen, which can result in permanent brain damage or death due to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain.
Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Nausea, vomiting
The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, but lack symptoms of a fever, and the person usually starts feeling better when they get fresh air. Because initial symptoms are often mild, carbon monoxide is often referred to as the “silent killer.”