Fumes sicken students, staff at Edison Elementary School in Tacoma

Staff writerSeptember 20, 2013 

About 50 students and staff members at Tacoma’s Edison Elementary School were sickened Friday when noxious fumes emanated from the building’s heating and cooling system, firefighters reported.

Of them, 47 — 18 by ambulance and 29 by school bus — were taken to local hospitals to be checked after complaining of headaches, dizziness and nausea, Tacoma fire spokesman Joe Meinecke said. None of the effects was considered serious.

“But we need to make sure all the kids and staff check out safely,” Meinecke said.

The incident began about 9:30 a.m. when school personnel called 911 to report fumes in the building. Firefighters confirmed something was in the air and ordered people out of the building. Students and teachers streamed into a yard on the east side of the school, where they waited for more than 90 minutes.

Those not being treated for symptoms sang, chatted or performed calisthenics while firefighters ran air-quality tests and ventilated the inside of the building.

Tacoma schools officials sent an alert to Edison parents, and many showed up to take children home.

Vicky Ramsey, whose daughter Payton Ramsey and son Jackson Ramsey-Olivera attend the school, was among them.

“I was getting ready for work when I got an email,” Ramsey said. “It’s a little disheartening.”

School officials set up a station to advise parents whose children were taken to hospitals and to allow parents to check out their kids for the day.

The cause of the fumes was under investigation, but initial reports indicated a crew doing maintenance on the school’s roof inadvertently blew vapor of some kind into an intake for the building’s heating and cooling system, Meinecke said.

Some parents complained that repair work shouldn’t have been underway while school was in session.

Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel said such repairs aren’t unusual and that the district performs maintenance year-round.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

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