The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario recently issued a report that reveals the extent of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning inside a school. According to the union, 38 teachers and 172 students have reported having a CO problem during the 2018-19 school year, while over 650 more reported CO exposures in 2017-18. Of those who reported an exposure, 449 happened inside classrooms, and 200 of those were due to improperly operating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Carbon monoxide is produced by petroleum sources or by a reaction between nitrogen dioxide and some other gases or molecules. The first artificial greenhouse opened in 1675 and since then the production of CO has increased because of rapid industrialization in the industrial age. However, it’s not only industry that has a relationship with this gas, electric power generation and the use of gasoline and diesel fuels have all also contributed to the increase in CO leaks.
There are a number of different ways people can ingest or inhale CO, including simply breathing air that has CO from a car that has no working tailpipe or from a poorly insulated garage, but more commonly in Canada in its design, cars and motorcycles have an exhaust that contains a CO and a bunch of exhaust particles. CO-emitting parts often come with a label that says “Warning: Do not breathe CO.” It is extremely dangerous to inhale CO, even when it’s invisible, although that doesn’t give you any protection from its chemicals.
In warmer months, the air in schools is usually much hotter than outside, and depending on the air temperature, CO can rise quickly. According to a government report by the Association of Iroquois Hydroutrarians, deaths from CO-related illness increased by 50% between 1999 and 2012. There is also, in Ontario, a notion of “Central Office Aversion,” where government employees, even including teachers, wouldn’t feel comfortable working in a building where the air quality levels had passed the 40 ppm threshold (as recently as 2017).
According to the ETFO’s report, the danger has been that some of the CO-vulnerable schools have had an infection as a result of a cross-infection with co-infected staff.
Researchers argue that any serious school-related CO incident is a “wake-up call” for all of us – and for everyone in Canada.
Co-infected teachers and staff have an enhanced exposure to CO poisoning. https://t.co/j2vDfmnHC1 pic.twitter.com/DhwO2bSpYz — School Safety Canada (@SSCanada) January 26, 2018
The solution to this problem, in Ontario, as in many parts of the world, is to replace or replace the CO detection and safety systems in schools with a second one that is designed specifically for education buildings.
Copyright 2017 Knitch