Oct 31 2015
Northwest Chicago’s Prussing Elementary School is evacuated for carbon monoxide poisoning, yet the first words associated with such report in a school is scare. This wasn’t a scare, it was a carbon monoxide poisoning. Just because no one died, doesn’t mean everyone will be alright. That isn’t the way it works.
“No serious injuries here, everyone taken to the hospital is expected to be okay,” said Regina Waldroup with Channel 5 in Chicago.
THAT IS JUST SIMPLY WRONG.
Perhaps as high as one third of those taken to the hospital may have serious ongoing problems. For children, that number may be even higher. Immature brains are more susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide than adults. In order to understand how serious carbon monoxide poisoning can be, it is important to understand that carbon monoxide damages cells in two ways:
- First, by starving the cells of oxygen; and
- Two, by leaving behind a toxin that works like a slow acting poison, continuing to cause toxic damage to the cell for months after the carbon monoxide poisoning event. The children at Prussing Elementary School are not out of the woods yet, not by a long ways. Just because they didn’t die, if their blood tests for carbon monoxide poisoning are abnormal, then they are at serious risk of getting worse, not better over the next weeks.
If you are a parent or other person impacted by the Prussing Elementary School carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to learn what the carbon monoxide percentage was in the blood. Each person impacted should have had a test for carbon monoxide, referred to as COHb. If that percentage is as high as 10, that could signal a major problem.
We of the Chicago Brain Injury Group know about carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly carbon monoxide poisoning in schools. We are lead counsel in the Girard, Illinois Middle School case where 177 middle schoolers were poisoned, along with 10 adults, in September of 2014. See our page on other school poisonings. In the Girard case, we brought actions against the school district and against the heating, ventilating and air conditioning contractors (HVAC) who installed and maintained the schools HVAC systems.
When more is known about the cause of this poisoning, we will probably learn that warnings signs of things like negative pressure were ignored and that condensation and poor maintenance were involved. Carbon monoxide poisoning does not happen in a school without someone being at fault. When a poisoning occurs, it is critical that litigation be commenced to hold those responsible accountable.
But as we think about one more school poisoning, one question persists? Where were the carbon monoxide detectors? Why didn’t they warn of the hazard before so many people got sick?