By Elizabeth F. McNamara
As of Tuesday afternoon, nine Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School students and one teacher had tested positive for elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) since the first student tested positive a month ago, just before the April break. Why several people who attend or work at Meadowbrook have tested positive for CO remains a mystery. The school building and the buses have shown no signs of CO, an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly at high doses.
The latest three tested positive monday, according to Meadowbrook Principal Neil Marcaccio. No new incidents were reported as of Tuesday afternoon.
“I think everyone’s a little nervous,” Marcaccio said Monday.
In his email Monday, Marcaccio said they had run the boiler all weekend while the school was closed up and tests that morning showed no carbon monoxide. Tuesday evening, his email read: “All testing today showed zero CO in all spaces in and around our building. I also checked the student drop off zone in the off chance all the cars were some how sending CO towards the building ventilators. Again, nothing was found.”
While most stories that go public about carbon monoxide poisoning are when there’s a leak in a building and the gas is inhaled. State Department of Health toxicologist Mike Byrns, however, said the human body also produces a low level of carbon monoxide.
“A little bit [of CO] is expected from your body just doing its metabolism,” Byrns said in an interview Tuesday.
Byrns did say chronic low-level carbon monoxide is a big issue, primarily for smokers or those who live with smokers. But, he added, people with chronic CO probably don’t get tested because the symptoms mirror those for other illnesses, such as headache, fatigue and nausea.
He declined to talk about the incidences at Meadowbrook specifically, saying he did not have enough information. But, Byrns said, “based on what we’ve been told, they’ve gone above and beyond testing both the buses and the school. There doesn’t seem to be a problem associated with the school.”
The latest from Principal Marcaccio, as of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 15:
“No detectable CO was measured anywhere in the building today. We took extra measurements at the end of the day when the grounds crew was here mowing, on the off chance the mowers and blowers were creating a hazard. Again, we picked up no detectable CO. There have been no additional reports of elevated CO readings in students or adults since my last report.”
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