12 Schoolchildren Hospitalised After Suspected Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Incident
Twelve pupils at the Manchester Grammer School in north west England were taken to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning during pool-based scuba diving lessons on Monday, 26 June.
One pupil remains in hospital where he is described as being in a 'stable condition', after a teacher gave him emergency oxygen as a result of the incident. The other 11 pupils have since been discharged.
A statement from the school's headmaster, Dr Martin Boulton, said: 'as part of our activities week, an external company was holding a scuba diving course in our swimming pool when two of the boys taking part became very unwell. Emergency services were called and the two boys were immediately taken to hospital by ambulance. Several of the other boys later felt unwell and were also taken. As a precautionary measure, the remaining boys who were on the course were also seen at hospital to determine whether they needed treatment. Our thoughts are with all the boys and their parents and we will continue to offer them support.'
The UKs Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the local police are investigating the matter.
'Detectives are investigating the incident with the Health and Safety Executive, and have been working with Public Health England to ensure that there is no wider risk to the public or diving community,' said Superindent Dave Pester of the Manchester police. 'The possibility that carbon monoxide was present in air tanks is being investigated.'
Carbon Monoxide is a toxic gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels and in high concentrations prevents oxygen from circulating through the blood stream. Although it is present in the atmosphere – especially in urban areas – small concentrations are not considered to be dangerous under normal conditions. Under pressure, however, the effects can be magnified substantially.
Scuba tanks are filled using a compressor which draws in air from the surrounding atmosphere, which is then passed through a filter to remove moisture, carbon monoxide and other particulate matter from the gas that is pumped into the tank. The filters wear out over time and with repeated use, and must be replaced at regular intervals to maintain their effectiveness. Failure to do so can mean that unwanted gases – such as carbon monoxide – may be forced into the tank.
Although it is unwise to speculate on the exact cause of the incident until investigations have been completed, the dive centre responsible for the tank fills has issued an urgent recall, with a message on the front page of their website reading: 'AIR FILL RECALL – If you have any unused gas fills (Air, Nitrox or Trimix) from Aqualogistics, please do not use them and please return them to us for checking,' adding that the shop is closed at this time.
A statement on their website also says 'Aqualogistics Ltd is shocked and saddened by the incident involving a group of school children on 26th June 2017. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those affected. On the advice of the Health and Safety Executive, we would ask that any cylinders filled at our site in Stockport are drained and refilled. They should not be used. We are co-operating with the ongoing investigations. It would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this stage'.