Connecticut and Maryland are the only states that require carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in schools, and most U.S. schools don’t have them, the Associated Press reported, soon after 44 students and adults were sickened by CO fumes at Utah's Montezuma Creek Elementary School on Nov. 18.
The Utah event is only the latest in a string of similar incidents at U.S. schools. Last December, 49 people were treated for CO poisoning after exposure at an Atlanta elementary school. At the time, USA Today reported that since 2007, there were at least 19 cases of high CO levels at schools, resulting in evacuations of more than 3,000 students and hospitalizations of 349 children and school staff members. Since last November, at least five more U.S. schools reported CO leaks, according to the AP story.
Those include a 2011 incident in which about 40 students and faculty were sickened by CO at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and a carbon monoxide leak led to the evacuation of an elementary school in St. Paul, Minn., in 2010, a Pennsylvania House of Representatives blog said.
Lawmakers in several states are considering legislation to equip classrooms with carbon monoxide detectors, including Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Carbon monoxide detectors are more typically used in residences where people sleep. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 25 states have statutes requiring them in certain residential buildings.
A story about putting CO detectors into schools at OhioWatchdog.org estimated the cost of individual CO detectors at $40 apiece. Every classroom would need one, because each enclosed space requires its own unit. Purchasing the detectors for Columbus City Schools, Ohio’s largest district, would cost more than $80,000, the story said. (Costs for batteries and their replacements is not included.)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines CO as “an odorless, colorless gas which can cause sudden illness and death” that is produced whenever a fossil fuel is burned.
“Many school administrators say they're unaware of the dangers,” the AP story said. “But doctors with expertise in carbon monoxide poisoning say the alarms — which the National Fire Protection Association says should be near bedrooms in every home — should be installed in classrooms or hallways.”
Utah’s San Juan School District, where the most recent school CO poisonings happened, is considering installing CO detectors in its classrooms, The Deseret News reported.
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