May 26, 2014 5:05 pm
Updated: May 27, 2014 12:27 pm

Parents concerned roof repairs at Toronto school making students sick

ABOVE: Hear the concerns regarding the roof repairs from the parents and children themselves – and what the school is planning to do about it. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – Concerned parents gathered outside a Toronto school Monday morning to protest roof repairs they say are harming the students’ health.

Work started last week at Ossington Old Orchard Public School (OOOPS) and several parents say their children have complained of headaches, nausea and sore throats due to the “hot applied asphalt” fumes.

“We recognize the work needs to be done but we want to make sure it’s not being done during school hours,” said parent Tess Sheldon.

OOOPS is one of 311 Toronto schools currently undergoing roof repairs as a result of installing new solar panels.

The Toronto District School Board says the work needs to be done during the day and in good weather conditions.

“Toronto Public Health was here and an air quality inspection was done. The fumes are not toxic,” said TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz.

“The reality is there’s going to be some fumes. The situation isn’t the best for everybody but we’re going to try to make it as tolerable as possible.”

The board insists the fumes don’t pose a serious health risk despite short-term effects listed on the school’s website.

WATCH: Workers sent home from Toronto school after parents protest

“The effects of roofing asphalt fumes are usually mild and temporary, but can be headaches, dizziness and nausea,” read on the board’s website. “Symptoms should resolve themselves within hours after exposure to the odour has ended.”

Still, some parents say the fumes are overwhelming and that several children have already been sent home sick.

“They’re acknowledging headaches, nausea and dizziness on their own website, to me those are bad health effects,” said parent Jeff Cassey.

“We don’t know what the long term health effects are but certainly the short terms ones are obvious.”

An online petition has been created demanding the school to stop the repairs during school hours.

“No information has been provided by you about the specific chemicals used, including their toxicity or their long-term impact on the health of our children,” read the petition addressed to the board and city politicians.

“Why is this work being done with a school full of children inside?”

The school board says the contractors are running ventilation to circulate the air and minimize the odour.

“They really want to move this ahead. There is a commitment to double shift this weekend and we hope to finish by Sunday,” said Schwartz-Maltz.

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