Most central North Carolina schools don't have Carbon Monoxide detectors

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The I-Team discovered most of the schools around the Triangle do not have CO2 detectors (WTVD)

It's called the "silent killer", carbon monoxide. A $25 CO detector could save you from becoming a victim of it. Yet, as the I-Team discovered, most of the schools around the Triangle do not have them.

Last summer, East Cary Middle School learned this the hard way when a broken flue pipe in the school's boiler room sent carbon monoxide into one of its buildings.

17 people-10 children and 7 adults-were treated. Three of the adults went to the hospital.


East Cary Middle School has no carbon monoxide detectors to warn students and teachers.

"That's pretty shocking," said a mother who was picking up her child as the school let out.

"I think they should be in all the schools just like we have them in the homes," said another mother in the carpool lane at East Cary Middle.

Charlie Johnson, Wake County chief deputy fire marshal, agrees with the moms.

"Yes, schools should have carbon monoxide alarms," Johnson said.

He says even though inspectors check schools every year, carbon monoxide can still be a problem.

"Obviously, the inspectors are not going to be able to catch everything that could potentially cause this gas to accumulate, he explained. "That early warning that that device can give you could mean the difference between life and death."

Carbon monoxide can hit you without warning. The symptoms can be headache, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea. It can be deadly.

The I-Team checked with Triangle area school districts and found only Orange County has carbon monoxide detectors in schools. Its detectors are inside boiler rooms.

"Our maintenance staff felt like it was a great added step or benefit to those individuals working in the mechanical room or the boiler room for extra safety and protection," explained Patrick Abele, Chief Operations Officer for the Orange County School District.

In Johnston County, the I-Team found a different kind of safety system protecting against the kind of carbon monoxide emergency that happened at East Cary Middle School.

"There's no way that there is carbon monoxide where students or staff are present," said Patrick Jacobs, Chief Operations Officer for the Johnston County School District.

Patrick Jacobs says the boiler rooms at all the county's schools have a system to blow out dangerous gases.

"Any external gases that are built up in this boiler, regardless of what they are, are purged," he explained.

Only four states in the country require carbon monoxide detectors in schools: California, Maine, Connecticut and Maryland.

North Carolina has a new law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all new schools but not existing schools.

The I-Team asked State Representative Becky Carney if she'd consider proposing a law making detectors mandatory in all schools.

She helped pass the law for detectors in hotels and motels after carbon monoxide killed two adults and a child in Boone.

"Certainly, we want our schools safe for our children and whatever measures we need to take for that, I think we need to," Rep. Becky Carney D-Mecklenburg.

The Wake County School System refused to do an interview with the I-Team about the carbon monoxide emergency at East Cary Middle School saying in a statement they comply with requirements for air quality monitoring.

That statement isn't good enough for East Cary moms like Liz McCabe who believes that Wake County kids should have CO detectors to keep them safe.

"They should be in all the schools and all the buildings. The county has money for it, I am sure. It's for safety."

TIP: The best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to step outside and get fresh air. Then, call 911 or the fire department to report it.

CO detectors can be bought for as low as $25 at a local hardware or other stores.

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