Bourbonnais CO Poisoning Sent At Least 48 to the Hospital

While no dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) levels have yet been identified in the Bourbonnais CO poisoning, several staff and students had elevated CO levels, according to a statement released by the Bourbonnais Elementary School District. The building was still evacuated as more students presented with headaches and nausea, according to the press release by the Bourbonnais Fire Department.

The HVAC contractor and the fire department conducted an investigation and found that the backup power generator test cycle timer had malfunctioned, according to the school’s statement. The breezy weather drew some of the exhaust back into the building.

Bourbonnais CO Poisoning

Bourbonnais CO Poisoning at LeVasseur Elementary School still under investigation.

Electric generators have far dirtier emissions than they should. This issue has been subject of a proposed rule in front of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commision. Attorney Gordon Johnson testified on March 8, 2017 of the dangers of carbon monoxide from these generators. See below for a portion of his testimony demanding to know why the generator industry has not gotten its carbon monoxide emissions to something comparable to cars, where 99% of carbon monoxide has been eliminated. The generator industry drags its feet and a school full of children get poisoned.

From Attorney Johnson’s prepared remarks before his testimony at the CPSC:

Today, cars have such reduced emissions that the risk of suicide from CO from running your car in the garage is dramatically reduced. Yet, accidental deaths from the internal combustion engines the generator industry uses to power their generators marches on. Is it because we have not learned to clean up emissions from internal combustion engines? Of course not. Is it because there is no need to clean up emissions? Of course not. Is it because no one has ever made them stop? Yes.

Since the poisoning yesterday, they tested the entire building for air quality, permanently disabled the generator, placed CO detectors in every classroom, and will have both the fire department and HVAC contractor on site to continue to monitor air quality tomorrow.

The total of 48 patients were taken to both Kankakee hospitals. That number may be even higher because some parents refused treatment and took their children to the hospitals later. They separated the sick students from non-sick students on the front lawn. Sick students and teachers were taken to the two hospitals. The other students were transported to Liberty Intermediate School, where more students reported feeling ill and also went to the hospital later. People online also seemed confused as to why there were no levels of CO in the building, but there were levels of CO found in the blood of victims and many sick people, sick enough to go to the hospital.

Bourbonnais CO poisoning

When a patient presents symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, as the people in the Bourbonnais CO poisoning did, doctors will take a blood test to determine carboxyhemoglobin level. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Wellcome Images)

A blood test is used to determine the percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood. This is called the carboxyhemoglobin level. The test measures the amount of hemoglobin that has bonded with carbon monoxide. Hemoglobin is a protein in red bloods cells that bind to oxygen. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin with about 200 times the affinity of oxygen. This puts the brain at serious risk of damage if the brain is oxygen deprived and toxins are released into the brain from the carbon monoxide.

Hyperbaric oxygen is the best treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. It will reduce the cognitive sequelae down the road. It is usually only done for people with severe carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s not clear whether these students and adults received this treatment.

It’s still not totally clear why the fire department found no carbon monoxide in the building in the Bourbonnais CO poisoning, but found it in the blood of some of the victims. The symptoms were the indicator that there was a problem with carbon monoxide in the building. Although no carbon monoxide detectors had gone off, Superintendent Dan Hollowell said he had added CO detectors to every classroom.

The Bourbonnais CO poisoning was unfortunate. Schools in Illinois should be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms, according to the law. It’s still not clear if any alarms went off, but it appears the CO alarms were missing from the classrooms. It is important to have the CO alarms where the people are, and not just hidden in a boiler room, where people can possibly not hear it.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *