Montreal public health physician calls for mandatory carbon monoxide detectors in schools
A physician with Montreal’s public health department is calling on the province to make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in all public institutions after at least 43 students and staff members at a local elementary school were hospitalized.
In Quebec, there is provincial legislation forcing daycares and some healthcare institutions to use detectors, but educational institutions are not bound by the same obligation.
“What we see with this event in a school is that we don’t have regulations that cover all the types of environments where people are at risk,” Montreal public health physician Dr. David Kaiser said.
“This should be mandatory.”
Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge confirmed that schools are under no obligation to have the devices, but says the devices are recommended.
“It’s currently up to school boards to ensure that the carbon monoxide detectors in their schools are functional,” said Roberge. “The presence of such detectors in public buildings is recommended by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, but not mandatory.”
The Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board (CSMB) said there is a carbon monoxide detector at the Des Découvreurs elementary school in LaSalle, where the gas leak took place and sent at least 35 children and eight adults to hospital.
The school board said the device was functional when it was tested last October. It blames a faulty furnace system for the incident.
‘Most schools have a source’ of carbon monoxide
Most Montreal schools have a source of carbon monoxide in their heating and refrigeration systems or water heaters, according to the public health department.
Kaiser describes it as an “obviously problematic” situation. He insists a simple tool to detect carbon monoxide levels could save lives.
WATCH BELOW: Children transferred to Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur Hospital after carbon monoxide poisoning
“We know that most schools have a source and we also understand that many schools that have a source don’t have carbon monoxide detector,” said Kaiser.
In Montreal, there are 12 to 15 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning every year. While most cases happen to individuals in homes and in cars, officials say this latest scare in an elementary school is a reminder that more needs to be done to prevent large-scale injuries and possibly death.
“If there’s a source of carbon monoxide, we absolutely have to have the mechanisms in place — and that’s a detector and procedure to make sure that it works so we avoid impacts on health,” Kaiser said.