The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!


The furniture, fixtures and construction materials used in your classroom may be emitting toxic fumes.

Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.

It is known to be capable of causing strong irritation of the airways, eyes, skin and mucus membranes.

Once an individual's immune system is sensitised, even very low formaldehyde concentrations in air can trigger airway sensitisation or skin reactions in sensitised people.

Manly State School report warns of formaldehyde side effects, Tanya Chilcott, The Courier-Mail, 15 October 2010.

Manly State School : toxic fumes

Consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff have prepared a report for the Queensland Government in which they warn that large quantities of the building material E1MDF ( medium-density fibreboard ) used in desks, shelves, whiteboards and building materials at Manly State School had "collectively contributed" to elevated levels of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde levels of up to 192 micrograms per cubic metre were found at Manly State School.

Four school staff complained of headaches and breathing problems.

The report recommended that the levels be brought below 120 micrograms per cubic metre in classrooms.

The report also recommends that E1 MDF not be purchased for use in new furniture, fixtures or construction materials in schools without a protocol in place to test for indoor formaldehyde air concentrations.

All new and refurbished rooms at Manly State School have now been 'off-gassed' as a precaution.

The 'off-gassing' is designed to release toxic odours from walls, furniture and shelving.

Toxic school furniture installed at Manly State School and others, Tanya Chilcott, The Courier-Mail, 15 October 2010.

Schools treated for toxic odours, News, p. 40, The Sunday Mail, 24 October 2010.

Wynnum West State School :  toxic gases

Education Queensland acting deputy-general Graham Atkins revealed in early October 2010 that Wynnum West State School was being treated - 'off-gassed' - for potentially toxic gases.

School staff had complained about skin rashes, headaches and a noxious smell.

Toxic school furniture installed at Manly State School and others, Tanya Chilcott, The Courier-Mail, 15 October 2010.

Schools treated for toxic odours, News, p.40, The Sunday Mail, 24 October 2010.

Warning to teachers : if a new classroom or hall smells, do not go into it.

Unflued gas heaters have been installed in some buildings constructed under the federal governments Building the Education Revolution program

Studies have shown that the heaters release a potentially poisonous stew of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde.

They are being phased out of schools in every state except NSW and Queensland.

A 2007 Commonwealth health report on unflued heaters found exposure to the fumes they emitted causes increased respiratory symptoms in children with asthma, and were also associated with new asthma cases in children. 

The combination of exposure to unflued gas heaters, as well as fumes emitted from paint, new carpet and building materials, could cause toxic overload in children, according to environmental scientist Jo Immig of the National Toxics Network.

''We are concerned about the overall toxic load,'' she said. ''This is particularly important as far as children are concerned because they are much more sensitive to toxins than adults.

New buildings also posed a risk of volatile organic compounds being released from carpet, paint and new furniture, Ms Immig said.

''Carpets are potentially one of the most toxic things in the indoor environment.''


Professor Margaret Burchett from the University of Technology, Sydney, said it could take months for indoor air quality to improve. ''If you smell that newness smell in a building it's a nice smell but it's also toxic.''

Murdoch University environmental toxicologist Peter Dingle said the rooms should be allowed to air before being used.

''If teachers and kids walk into a new classroom or hall and there is a smell in the room they should not go into it,'' Dr Dingle said.


Lessons in toxic overload, Rachel Browne, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 2010 :


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