Carbon monoxide leak in Montreal school prompts questions about detectors

MONTREAL — A carbon monoxide leak in a Montreal school that sent 43 people to hospital has exposed the absence of any requirement in Quebec for schools to have detectors to protect against the potentially lethal gas.

The Quebec government said Tuesday it is not ruling out the possibility of ordering the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all schools that burn fuel for heating.

Firefighters identified a defective heating system at Montreal’s Ecole des Decouvreurs as the source of the gas, which left dozens of students and staff feeling nausea and dizziness. Some were vomiting, and an emergency room physician said nine children lost consciousness at the school.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge wants a full report on Monday’s incident and on the situation throughout the school network before deciding on detectors, his office said.

The Regie du batiment du Quebec, which oversees the safety of buildings in the province, confirmed that carbon monoxide detectors are not mandatory in schools. They are recommended in buildings that burn fuel as a “responsible, effective, easy and inexpensive action.”

But the detectors are only mandatory in public buildings where people sleep, such as hospitals, seniors’ residences and hotels.

Health officials confirmed Tuesday that all 43 patients taken to hospital because of the gas had been discharged. And the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board announced that the school would reopen Wednesday.

Testing confirmed that air quality respected norms and no abnormal concentration of gas was detected, the board said in a statement. The board also verified that carbon monoxide detectors were functioning in all its schools that heat with fuel.

Diane Lamarche-Venne, the school board chairwoman, said the furnace and gas detectors at the Ecole des Decouvreurs had passed an inspection last October.

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