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Danger in the air at north intermmediate school in wilmington

Danger in the Air At North Intermmediate School in Wilmington?

Is there danger in the air at the North Intermediate School in

Wilmington? Apparently carbon dioxide levels have been found to be above

acceptable levels in some class rooms. According to a report dated Dec. 9, 1996,

by ATC Associations, an independent consulting firm hired by the Town of

Wilmington to conduct Indoor Air Quality and Microbiological testing at the

school. "All indoor air quality parameters were within normal guideline ranges

with the exception of consistently elevated levels of carbon dioxide and low

relative humidity levels throughout the school," said the report.

High levels of carbon dioxide indoors can be a sign of poor ventilation

in a building. Carbon dioxide is an odorless gas which can cause discomfort at

lower levels and act as a mild narcotic at higher concentrations. According to

the Dec. 9 report, "If carbon dioxide levels exceed 800-1000 parts per

million(ppm), the ventilation system is not effectively working."

At the Wilmington School Committee meeting on Feb. 12, school

Superintendent Dr. Geraldine A. O'Donnell stated that there was a complaint of a

musty odor in one of the class rooms after heavy rains on Nov. 6. There were

also complaints of nausea and headaches from numerous students. The room was

inspected by Roger Lessard, Public Building Superintendent. Mr. Lessard found

the odor was being caused by Science chemicals stored there and mildew on a

window ledge in the room.

School principal Doug Anderson checked with the school nurse for the

attendance rate between Oct. 22 and the first week in November and found nothing

out of the ordinary. However, being concerned about the safety of the students

and staff, Mr. Anderson requested Lessard hire an outside consultant to

evaluate the school's air quality.

The Town of Wilmington then contracted with ATC Associations of Woburn,

Environmental, Geoteccnical, and Materials Professionals. ATC conducted a test

at the school Nov. 21 and sampled 19 locations. 11 of the 19 locations tested

had a carbon dioxide level of over 800 ppm. The average carbon dioxide level

was 900ppm showing the results of inadequate ventilation.

ATC explained numerous ways to improve the school's ventilation system.

These included: trimming the shrubs close to vents; opening windows to allow air

into the building; and making sure all vents are unobstructed.

During late November, Anderson noticed a considerably large drop in

student attendance. The student absentee rate shifted from 5% to 20%. Anderson

spoke with the school Nurse Rita McCabe and requested that the Massachusettes

Department of Health(DPH) be contacted. The DPH and the Wilmington Board of

Health inspected the school on Jan. 30 and conducted air quality tests. The

results of the test are expected at the end of February.

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