Report: Odor posed no risk at Shamokin Area Elementary
COAL TOWNSHIP - The results of air quality tests at Shamokin Area Elementary School found nothing to indicate an elevated health risk to students or staff after an unidentified odor caused concern two weeks ago.
Test results were "normal" for type and concentrations of airborne mold spores and respirable particulate, according to a final report from JMSI Environmental Corp., Swoyersville.
Comfort factors such as temperature, relative humidity and carbon monoxide were "normal and acceptable." A visual inspection of each room in the fifth- and sixth-grade wings found nothing that would foul the air.
The source of the odor wasn't detected.
JMSI came to the same conclusion after preliminary testing on April 23 turned up nothing harmful: the indoor air quality posed no risk to the health and safety of students and staff.
"Everything was normal, thank goodness," Superintendent James Zack said Monday after releasing the test results to The News-Item.
Zack said the incident could move the district to commission annual indoor air quality tests at the elementary building.
"We're grateful in the end that the air is safe and everything worked out. That's the reason we're going to test every year," he said.
Elementary Principal Mary Teresa Komara said the odor was described by staff as "sour," perhaps like a cleaner or perfume. Something similar had been smelled before about seven years ago. That turned out to be sour milk building up in the sink traps in classrooms where used milk cartons were emptied.
More than 350 people were displaced from the two wings to different parts of the building on April 22. Those wings remained closed off until April 24. No other students or staff were displaced.
Classrooms, hallways, storage spaces and more were tested April 23 in the fifth-grade and sixth-grade wings, where the smell was detected. The third-grade and fourth-grade wings were also tested out of precaution.
High-volume air sampling pumps were used to collect samples from four sites. Airborne molds, respirable particulate and pollen were analyzed. Other comfort factors analyzed were carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds.
Zack said he's heard nothing more regarding the two instances where students were treated at area emergency rooms for allergic reactions in wake of the unidentified odor. He said at the time there was nothing to indicate it was related to air quality, and he noted that absences at the elementary building on the day after the smell was detected were lower than average.
One parent differed, sending photos to The News-Item of her young daughter, who was treated for a rash on her face and arm. A reply was never received when the parent was asked to speak further about the incident.