Scare prompts look at carbon monoxide detectors

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm •  Published: December 4, 2012
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Leaks are not unheard of. A malfunctioning water heater was blamed for sending higher-than-normal levels of carbon monoxide through an elementary school in Glen Rock, Penn., in September, sickening around 40 people. In February 2011, about 40 students and faculty were treated for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. Another carbon monoxide leak forced the evacuation of an elementary school in St. Paul, Minn., in 2010. Firefighters traced a leak back to basement boilers.

A model environmental policy for schools published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that schools install carbon monoxide detectors near combustion sources, such as boilers, stoves and water heaters. It also advises that ventilation systems receive regular maintenance.

"Improperly managed ventilation and filtration systems can contribute to airborne mold, infectious diseases, and carbon monoxide poisoning," the report said.

Commercially available carbon monoxide alarms designed for homes range in cost from around $13 to more than $100. Alford said Atlanta school officials have recently discussed models that cost around $15.

Facility managers in school sometimes must make financial decisions on which safety upgrades they can afford, especially when those fixes are not required by law. Still, Farquhar said the alarms are relatively cheap for the protection they provide.

"It's not asbestos where you need to go in and rip everything out and close the school for months on end," he said. "You just put the detector in and it's pretty cheap and cost-effective."