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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would protect New Jersey students from the deadly effects of carbon monoxide was introduced in the State Senate yesterday.
“Recently we have seen incidents across the country where students are evacuated from schools wearing oxygen masks and transported to hospitals because the school simply did not have the correct equipment to detect high levels of carbon monoxide,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Hunterdon and author of a 1999 New Jersey law requiring homes to have carbon monoxide detectors installed. “This is an easy fix. By requiring schools to install carbon monoxide detectors, we can help to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for New Jersey students.”
The bill, S-2402, would require all New Jersey public and private schools to install carbon monoxide (CO) detection devices. The bill would allow for an exemption for any school that is determined to have no potential CO hazard, such as those without heat sources that could potentially emit carbon monoxide fumes.
The bill would require the Commissioner of Community Affairs to set regulations regarding installation and standards of the devices and would require that installation of the devices to be done by local fire officials or the state Division of Fire Safety.
Early this month, nearly 50 students and teachers from Finch Elementary School in Atlanta were sent to the hospital with CO poisoning. According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, maintenance workers forgot to flip a switch on the school’s boiler, causing it to work overtime and leak high levels of CO into the public areas and classrooms.
Senator Turner notes that this isn’t a singular incident of schools having undetected high-levels of CO. Within the past three months, students were also evacuated and hospitalized from schools in Chicago and Philadelphia due to CO exposure. According to a USA Today report, there have been at least 19 carbon-monoxide-related incidents at schools since 2007, causing at least 349 children and staff to be hospitalized.
“If a simple maintenance error can cause dozens of students in Georgia to end up in the hospital, what makes us think that our children are safe from this silent killer?” added Senator Turner. “Just like fire and smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors are critical to ensuring our children’s safety by detecting this poisonous gas early and all of our schools should have them.”
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is difficult for people to detect. It forms when there is not enough oxygen to produce carbon dioxide – often when a device that produces carbon monoxide such as a furnace or generator is in an enclosed space. In the short-term, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause lightheadedness, confusion, headaches and flu-like symptoms but can cause more serious harm and even death if exposed for longer periods of time.
Currently, only Connecticut and Maryland require schools to have carbon monoxide detectors.
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