SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two state lawmakers want to ensure all Utah schools have carbon monoxide monitors installed after a gas leak at a southern Utah elementary school last year sickened more than 40 people.
The November leak prompted concerns since Utah is among the many states that don't require carbon monoxide monitors in schools.
Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis is sponsoring one of two bills pending in the Utah Legislature that would require all K-12 school buildings to install the monitors.
The devices would need to be placed in mechanical rooms near furnaces or water heaters and kitchen areas of buildings with gas appliances.
Carbon monoxide, an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas, is produced by combustion and can be found in fumes from vehicles, gas ranges and heating systems.
Symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea and weakness. Higher exposure levels can lead to unconsciousness and death. People who are asleep generally do not detect early symptoms, which can make their exposure fatal.
A Utah Senate committee voted 7-0 to approve Dabakis' bill Monday afternoon.
The bill advances to the full Senate. To become law, it must also be approved by a House committee and the full House.
Several lawmakers expressed concerns about the potential expense and told Dabakis they wanted to see a detailed cost estimate as the bill moves forward.
Utah's State Office of Education is still calculating the cost, Bruce Williams, the associate superintendent for business services and operations, told lawmakers.
Williams said the office estimates it will cost $2.8 million for the 1,000-plus Utah schools to adopt the detectors and their monitoring systems.
The office is estimating that each new device and required installation will cost about $200 to $250. For a large school district, it could be $200,000 to $300,000 total, Williams said.
The State Office of Education has not taken a position on the bill, Williams said, but noted the agency supports making schools safer.
Utah Fire Marshal Coy Porter said for districts that already have smoke alarms installed as part of monitored systems, it may be a relatively small cost to add the carbon monoxide monitors.
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