CDC opts out of investigation into mysterious school odors

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:58 am

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- The answer is no. The Sarasota County School District had asked the Centers for Disease Control to help it investigate what might be causing health complaints like dizziness and strange smells at Lamarque Elementary School in North Port.

District officials say the CDC's refusal actually confirms they are taking the proper steps to look into the matter. But others say it's a missed opportunity to once and for all get an answer.

So what does that mean for the school district, the school, and parents?

"I am disappointed…very disappointed." Michelle Murphy is the parent of a third grader at Lamarque who has some health issues. She's not happy the national health agencies have denied the school’s districts request to come investigate a long series of reported health complaints at the school. "I don't understand why they would not come. We are not talking about cement and grass, we are talking about children. If they were called, I do not understand why they would not come."

Scott Lempe with the school district says the perception of the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health coming could have helped. "I think from a public relations standpoint it would have been nice for them to physically come into the school and see things."

However, he says the agency’s 10-page reply shows they went over all the information gathered, finding nothing uncommon and indicates the district has been taking the right action. "We shared with them all of the technical information -- all of our indoor air quality testing, our drywall testing…all of that data type stuff, we shared with the CDC. I think they felt they could draw some conclusions from that."

Their conclusion was that there was nothing to warrant a visit.

Lempe says in the meantime they are taking recommendations by the CDC to communicate better with parents and staff. They are also still waiting for more results from more tests and studies. “One is some core sampling of what is under the floor. The other is from Dr. Jim McCluskey, who is the toxicologist who interviewed a number of teachers at Lamarque."

Lempe says for the past month things have been relatively quiet at the school, which has recently upgraded how air flows through the building.

For those like Michelle though, a little more research by the national agencies would have eased more concerns. "I feel that the school board is really trying. I think that had the CDC come, that would have backed up what the school board is saying."

The school district hopes that report by their expert will be finished soon.

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