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Carbon monoxide sends 42 students, 7 adults to hospitals

Parents listened as an official read the names of students taken to the hospital from Finch Elementary School in Atlanta.

Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Parents listened as an official read the names of students taken to the hospital from Finch Elementary School in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Potentially lethal carbon monoxide levels at an Atlanta elementary school with no detectors sent at least 42 students and seven adults to hospitals Monday and forced 500 more to leave school, authorities said.

Young children with oxygen masks over their faces were strapped to gurneys and others carried to ambulances by emergency officials at Finch Elementary School in southwest Atlanta. Four children reported passing out at the school, according to hospital officials. A teacher and a cafeteria worker were also among those treated.

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Firefighters found unsafe levels of carbon monoxide near a furnace at the school with a reading at 1,700 parts per million, said Atlanta fire Captain Marian McDaniel.

The colorless, odorless gas can be deadly at that concentration, said Stephanie Hon, assistant director of the Georgia Poison Center.

Superintendent Erroll Davis praised school officials for quickly evacuating after children started getting sick and said officials were considering installing carbon monoxide detectors in schools. Finch Elementary did not have a detector, and state officials said there are no code requirements for such equipment in K-12 schools.

It’s unlikely schools around the state are equipped with such detectors, said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.

Twenty-five states have laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut takes that a step further and requires detectors in all public and nonpublic schools, while Maryland recently enacted a law requiring detectors in newly constructed and remodeled schools, according to Scott Hendrick, program manager with the NCSL.

Most of the children taken to the hospitals were given oxygen and later released to their parents, officials said.


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