EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 10, 2013

Air quality issues persist at Guilmette

LAWRENCE – Nearly three years after a mold infestation shut the Guilmette School for seven months, state health inspectors say much of the building still suffers from poor ventilation and air quality, creating conditions that can spread mold and cause respiratory and other health problems.

In all, 59 of the 107 rooms tested by the Department of Public Health inspectors – including the cafeteria and library, a principal’s office and more than half the classrooms – had levels of carbon dioxide above the 600 parts per million that is the “preferred” maximum for public schools in Massachusetts.

Although the levels of carbon dioxide in the 59 rooms were not nearly high enough to pose a health threat on their own, they indicate that ventilation is poor enough to allow for “a buildup of common indoor pollutants” that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and can cause headaches, lethargy and difficulty breathing, the health inspectors said in a recently released report.

The inspectors, who visited the elementary and middle school on May 21 in response to a renewed outbreak of mold in a first-floor classroom, also warned that the air quality in the school could be worse than their results show because many of the rooms they tested were empty or nearly empty of students and staff or had their windows open, which can lower carbon dioxide readings.

“In many rooms, airflow from supply and exhaust vents was observed to be low or non-existent,” the inspectors said in their 67-page report, which was dated June 28 and provided to The Eagle-Tribune yesterday by Lawrence Teachers Union president Frank McLaughlin. “The library in particular was reported to have no operating mechanical ventilation at the time of the (inspection). Given that the library windows do not open, there was no source of fresh air for the library at the time of the assessment.”

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