Ontario students reported nearly 6,000 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in schools since the start of the school year, according to the ministry of education.
As of 29 April, there had been 4,490 carbon monoxide-related incidents reported to the ministry, which administers school environmental health programs.
Of those, 2,052 of the cases occurred in primary and secondary schools.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that has the same effect on the body as carbon dioxide, a pollutant. The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, confusion, dry mouth, irritability and speech problems. The effects last more than 48 hours after exposure.
In a statement on its website, the ministry of education said it urges parents to monitor their children’s daily activities and remind them to never give a portable generator a socket in which to plug it.
“Pet power generators, camp stoves, or candles can be deadly and emit gas that contaminates surrounding air and will persist in your home for days after the power is restored,” the ministry says.
One apparent gas-poisoning in the downtown Edmonton neighbourhood of Mount Royal was prompted by an electric furnace that was fitted with carbon monoxide detectors to monitor carbon monoxide levels in the building.
“We just felt that there was a real possibility that the furnace was emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and that it was time to stop using the furnace,” said Jeff Richardson, head of the Northwest Edmonton Community Association.
He said they were unaware that a coal furnace was also in the building.
“We were just trying to protect ourselves and we didn’t realize that one of the conditions that the furnace was designed to avoid, was because there was another condition in the building that would cause it to emit carbon monoxide even more so,” Richardson said.
Under Ontario’s boiler building safety standards, the building’s owner is required to install carbon monoxide alarms and carbon monoxide detection monitoring systems.
People buying portable generators from Alberta retailers and dealers are not subject to testing for carbon monoxide or the presence of hydrogen sulfide.
The products sold in the province do not include a carbon monoxide monitor, said EMS spokesman Curtis Brookhouse.
“We don’t test anything right now,” he said. “We may be out of a lot of things, but these things are being sold in the retail store. So right now, there’s nothing that we can tell them to test for.”