For the past month or so, fumes from construction at Bloomfield High School have seeped into classrooms on the north side of the building, causing some classes to have to relocate to the auditorium, gym or library on a semi-regular basis.

Parents and school board members learned at a school board meeting last month that the problem was caused by a gap between the new addition to the building (on the Belleville Ave. side), which is under construction, and the building itself. The gap acts as a chimney, efficiently delivering diesel exhaust from construction equipment and idling trucks right into classrooms.

The school and its construction manager thought they had a solution. Over the Christmas holiday, an exhaust fan was installed on top of the building to pull bad the bad air out. They even did a test, running the equipment and having the Bloomfield Health Department come by to take air samples. Levels of carbon monoxide and dioxide fell within acceptable levels. It seemed to work.

But when students returned to school this week, the fumes were back — and this time they were bad enough that even Trevor Weigle, director of health and humor services for Bloomfield, could smell it.

"Believe it or not, the human nose can pick up things at a much lower level than the instrumentation," Weigle said.

The problem, schools superintendent Thomas Dowd told us yesterday, is that the new fan’s intake hose — which was supposed to draw fresh air from outside and push it down into the crack — was actually drawing more of the bad air.


The new solution is to extend the hose and point it far away from the bad air.

How bad is the bad air? Carbon dioxide samples in the affected rooms have ranged from 300 ppm to 1000 ppm, although they are more typically in the 300-400 ppm range, health department officials say. OSHA standards permit levels up to 5,000 ppm.

On the other hand, said Weigle, "We don’t think any odors are acceptable. These things are destructive to the learning environment, absolutely." Carbon dioxide at these levels can cause headaches and light-headnesses and exacerbate asthma in certain individuals, he said.

"This cannot continue," Dowd agrees.

Although school and town officials are on the case, their communication with parents at the school has been practically nonexistent. Consequently, parents are fuming. And’s Bloomfield Forum has become a hotbed or rumor and complaint on the issue.

The story was also covered in today’s Star-Ledger.

One reply on “Fuming at Bloomfield High School”

  1. Thanks Debby.
    More Info:
    2870.4. Or
    by BHSMom07003, 1/6/05 13:15 ET
    Re: Article on BHS fumes in today’s Ledger by 07003, 1/6/05
    You can plunk down nearly $20 bucks at the health department and get all the information you need via the Open Public Records Act.
    Additional to Barista’s story…
    The US Dept of Labor, OSHA has promulgated Permissable Exposure Limits (PELS) for CO2 (29CFR, Part 1900.1000). OSHA suggests that CO2 levels above 800 PPM are likely to result in occupant complaints of poor air quality; however, the PEL for CO2 is 5000 PPM. The general industrial hygiene practice is to maintain exposure limits for non-occupational settings to at least ten (10) times less than the OSHA standard for industrial environments (500 PPM). Elevated levels of CO2 can cause occupants to become lethargic and uncomfortable…
    Hm… what were the readings of CO2 at BHS on 12/23?
    attendance room, fan off 545
    “, fan on 848
    room 204, fan off 977
    “, fan on 1,129
    room 203, fan off 816
    “, fan on 1014
    room 101, fan off 727
    “, fan on 829
    room 201A, fan off 1114
    “, fan on 1114
    *ALL* being above that non-occupational level of 500 PPM and most being above the “comfort level” of 800 PPM.
    Important distinction being
    1. the OSHA standards are for *adults* – these are teenagers, still developing.
    2. the OSHA standards are for industrial settings, and, of course, this *is* a school!
    Note, room 100, which was evacuated **3** times **THIS WEEK** is not among those tested.
    Also note, there was another test done this week; have filed paperwork to receive those as well.
    Still wading thru the documets… will post more eventually.

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