Wisconsin News

Carbon monoxide detectors not required in schools

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Many states, including Wisconsin, now require carbon monoxide detectors in all residences.

But there is no state law requiring those detectors in our schools.

It's an issue that's been getting some attention since potentially deadly levels of carbon monoxide at an Atlanta elementary school sent dozens of people to the hospital.

News 8 reached out to the school districts of La Crosse, Onalaska, West Salem, Sparta, Tomah and Holmen to find out where they stand. It turns out, there is not a single carbon monoxide detector installed in any school in those districts.

Holmen School District Buildings and Grounds Supervisor John Daily says the way Holmen's school buildings are set up makes an incident unlikely.


"We don't have carbon monoxide detectors in our buildings, and the basic reason for that is our boiler system where the airs combust is totally separate from the air handling system. The air handlers are almost always in a separate room," said Daily.

Daily said the schools also conduct regular checks on their boilers and air handlers to make sure they're functioning properly.

Several school districts also say the amount of fresh air circulating through their buildings makes carbon monoxide poisoning even less likely.

"I guess you never say never, but it's very, very unlikely. It would have to be something very catastrophic for that to happen," said Daily.

La Crosse School District Buildings and Grounds Director Jason Showen said if students or staff members start experiencing symptoms like headaches, he can take an air-quality meter to the room and measure CO levels on the spot.

Some districts said another reason they do not have carbon monoxide detectors is that installing and maintaining them would be costly.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) was the lead sponsor for a bill that required the detectors to be installed in all Wisconsin residences.

But he said no one has brought up expanding the requirements to schools.

"We're a responsive body," said Hintz. "We haven't heard from a single school district, a single parent, or any fire safety professionals, or public health professionals on this."

And unless that happens, it's unlikely the legislature will take any action.

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