Carbon Monoxide Leak at Elementary School Is a Scary Safety Reminder

A Utah elementary school was evacuated and at least 23 people were hospitalized on Monday after a carbon monoxide leak was detected. An exhaust pipe had disconnected from the heater at Montezuma Creek Elementary School, and several students complained of headaches.

Interestingly, the first 911 call to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office was not about the headaches, but about the smell of gas. Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and downright undetectable, so something must have been added to the gas to make it noticeable.

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One student and one teacher had to be life-flighted to a Colorado hospital, and the rest were taken by ambulance to the more local Blue Mountain Hospital. No deaths were reported (thank God), and the school will be open Tuesday.

How scary! The highest levels of the gas were reported at 300 parts per million, which is enough to kill you, according to Dr. Mark Goldstein, who develops and sells carbon monoxide sensors. The healthy limit for carbon monoxide is “50 parts per million for an eight-hour exposure in the workforce” for an otherwise healthy individual.

Many times there are no symptoms of poisoning -- you basically just black out. Goldstein said, “Some people feel nothing and then just pass out. You suffocate from the inside out, but it’s painless.”

Suffocate from the inside out? Anyone else hate reading about this kind of thing in connection to elementary school students? I’m just grateful that they detected it early on and hope for a speedy recovery for those that were affected.

Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your house?


Image via Judy van der Velden/Flickr

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