By The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Carbon monoxide detectors will become mandatory in all Quebec schools following an incident this week at a Montreal elementary school that sent at least 43 people to hospital, the provincial government announced Friday.
By The Canadian Press
Ahead of formally changing the rules, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge has told school principals across the province to confirm by next Tuesday that detectors for carbon monoxide and methane are present in their buildings.
They are also being asked to carry out air quality tests and inspections of their fuel-burning heating systems as soon as possible.
The new measures follow a gas leak at Montreal’s Ecole des Decouvreurs Monday that saw 43 students and adults transported to hospital. Other patients suffering from symptoms showed up at hospital later. Roberge said he stands with families and staff at the school.
“An event of this kind has never occurred in our milieu, and I hope that it does not happen again,” he said in a statement. “I expect all schools to have a carbon monoxide detector as soon as possible, even before it becomes a regulatory requirement.”
Under existing provincial regulations, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory only in public buildings where people sleep, such as hospitals, seniors’ residences and hotels. But Roberge said he plans to change the rules to include schools. The government will also require yearly inspections of the detectors.
The Regie du batiment du Quebec, which oversees the safety of buildings in the province, confirmed this week that carbon monoxide detectors are not mandatory in schools. The devices are however recommended in buildings that burn fuel as a “responsible, effective, easy and inexpensive action.”
The Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest school board, does not require the detectors in its nearly 600 schools. A board spokesman said the detectors are only mandatory in areas where students sleep, such as outdoor education centres.
“They are not required for schools and as a result are not present,” a board spokesman told The Canadian Press by email this week.
Firefighters identified a defective heating system at Ecole des Decouvreurs as the source of the gas, which left dozens of students and staff feeling nauseated and dizzy. Some were vomiting, and an emergency room physician said nine children lost consciousness at the school.
Health officials confirmed the day after the incident that all 43 patients taken to hospital because of the gas had been discharged, but Roberge noted Friday that one of the children is still showing symptoms from the exposure. The school reopened Wednesday after tests showed the air quality was fine.
Diane Lamarche-Venne, chairwoman of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board, said the school had gas detectors but they failed to alert people to the danger. She said the detectors and furnace had passed an inspection last October.
— Sidhartha Banerjee (With files from Michelle McQuigge)