Make our schools safer with carbon monoxide detectors

Every year, accidental exposure to carbon monoxide sends thousands of people to emergency rooms across the country, and hundreds die from it. These accidents happen in homes, businesses and even schools.

Recently, hundreds of students and faculty were inside a Colorado school when this odorless and tasteless gas seeped into the building because of a malfunctioning furnace. Fortunately, everyone safely escaped.

This incident underscores the need for CO detectors, particularly in our schools. Unfortunately, only a handful of states, such as Connecticut and Maryland, require CO detectors in their schools.

I firmly believe all schools should have these detectors. That’s why I am reintroducing legislation that would require all Pennsylvania schools – public and private -- that have heating systems or appliances powered by fossil fuels to install CO detectors.

We have a number of older schools with aging heating systems, and leaks in school heating systems that lead to a buildup of CO aren't uncommon.

Consider these examples:

  • A carbon monoxide leak led to the evacuation of an elementary school in St. Paul, Minn., in 2010.

  • A potentially deadly buildup of CO inside an Atlanta elementary school in 2012 sickened more than 50 people, including 42 students.

  • Also in 2012, higher-than-normal levels of carbon monoxide at an elementary school in Glen Rock, York County, sickened dozens of people.

We should install CO detectors in all Pennsylvania schools as soon as possible to prevent another incident, one that could have a tragic outcome.