Proposed Legislation Prompted by December Carbon Monoxide Incident at an Atlanta Georgia Elementary School
(Trenton) – Recognizing the need for stronger safety protections in New Jersey schools with potential carbon monoxide hazards, Assembly Democrats Pamela R. Lampitt, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Connie Wagner recently introduced legislation that would require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors devices in all schools, public and private.
The legislation (A-3640) was prompted by an incident at an elementary school in Georgia where potentially lethal levels of carbon monoxide (CO) sent several teachers and students to the hospital last December.
The Assemblywomen sponsored the legislation to prevent such an incident from happening in New Jersey and to protect the health and safety of children and school employees.
“In the days after Hurricane Sandy many New Jersey schools operated on generators, which emit carbon monoxide,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “What happened in Georgia should raise concerns across the nation. CO detectors should be required in schools with a heat source that could potentially emit carbon monoxide to protect our children.”
“What occurred in the Atlanta elementary school could have happened right here in New Jersey,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “There are a number of older schools with aging heating systems, and leaks in school heating systems that could lead to a buildup of CO. Carbon Monoxide Detectors are just as essential to fire safety as fire extinguishers and alarms.”
“Making sure our children are kept healthy and safe at school always will be a priority, never an option,” said Wagner (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Carbon Monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and lethal at high levels. We have CO detectors in our homes to protect our families. We should also have them in the second place our children are the most, at school.”
Unsafe levels of the carbon monoxide at Finch Elementary School forced, 42 students and 7 teachers to be hospitalized and 500 people to evacuate in early December, according to reports. The Georgia school was not equipped with carbon monoxide detection devices.
Currently, twenty-five states have laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If enacted, New Jersey would become the second state to devices in public and non-public schools.
There have been at least 19 CO-related incidents at schools since 2007, causing at least 349 children and staff to be hospitalized, according to a USA Today report.
The bill would direct the Department of Community Affairs to disseminate regulations concerning standards and installation of such devices.