A child has told you, and the emperor is naked - - - still, some more.

This story goes back over five years and more. I give the newspapers good marks for this one and special mention to one reporter, Linda W. Y. Parrish of the Seattle Times' Snohomish County Bureau. I had high hopes this time would be the one that would expose the whole sorry mess. It was not to be. While I can blame the media, the newspapers partially, the real fault lies in ourselves, our leaders and certain agents of "the enemy." (Ah, hints of conspairacy)!

Let me start with Parrish's (I'm afraid to ask what her extra initial signifies) report on page B4 of the April 27, 1994 issue:

". . .

Officials closed North Middle School yesterday after several students vomited and suffered headaches and nausea in class.

While health and pollution experts applauded the district for voluntarily closing the school and initiating professional testing, parents say it's about time, because their children repeatedly come home sick.

The school has had a history of air-quality problems since it opened in 1981, including a carbon-dioxide problem that later was corrected. Students have complained about itchy eyes, running noses, respiratory problems, and nausea.

Some teachers and other staff members have left North over the years because of health reasons they think were associated with the building, said Jeff Riddle, the Everett School District's assistant superintendent of business.

Officials have tested the building several times, changed ventilation systems and filtering systems. New ventilation units were installed this year to get more fresh air into the buildings."

The article goes on at length, but let me pause and comment.

There it was, a statement that included carbon dioxide and problem in the same sentence. If only there were additional explanation. Why and how was CO2 a problem? I wonder what kind of reporting, if any, this received in the past. Another item I can add to my list and track down in my spare time. Are we really to believe that the dioxide problem was corrected? Does that mean we should exclude it as the cause of the problems now? Why the quick assertion that it was fixed?

We learned that the problem goes back to 1981, when the school opened. That tells me the problem was designed into the school. Note also that the fixes have been to provide more ventilation, more fresh air. How inadequate was the original set-up? What assumptions were used in the initial design? Who was responsible? (Whoever it was, they now design the cabin air systems in Boeing airplanes).

Parrish goes on to give a good account of the illnesses experienced. She relates that the possibility of an outside contaminant is also being investigated. Most important, from my perspective, is her quoting of Rick Miklich, the Snohomish County Health District's Food and Living-Environment Program Manager:

"North is not an obvious example of "sick building syndrome" because the building is not new and doesn't have construction fumes or new furniture, carpeting, and paint. But it may be "tight building syndrome" in which not enough good air is getting into the building and too much stagnant air remains."

Ah! There it is, a distinction. A very important distinction. Thank you Mr Miklich for pulling the rug out from under the "sick building" advocates and mentioning "tight building," which I don't believe the average citizen has even heard about. Usually, the demons are only carbon monoxide and, then, "sick building" if monoxide can't be blamed. The powers that be don't want you to ever hear about "tight building syndrome," despite the fact that this name is itself an attempt to obfuscate. It is just too informing, too close to the truth. You see, tight means sealed up. Who was and is behind sealing all of our buildings?

Miklich points out and Parrish courageously reports that the problem is not just getting fresh air into a building but also too much stagnant air remaining. This implies that the placement of the inlet and outlet vents and the adequacy of the outlets in relation to the input may be a consideration.

I would only ask one more thing of Miklich and Parrish: Define stagnant. In these situations, it simply means the air contains too much carbon dioxide! I wish that they had said it. I guess it is left to me to beat you all over the head with it - - - CO2, CO2, CO2, and more CO2!

Why do so many newspapers, radio, television, magazines, and organizations like the Lung Association have a problem saying the words, carbon dioxide? Think about it, please.

And, please prepare yourself mentally to make the association with behavioral problems in "tight" schools. Respiratory and behavioral problems; respiratory and behavioral problems, by design!

Many other area newspapers picked up the story. I cannot give a good tally on how many mentioned carbon dioxide and how many did not. Pam McGaffin, writing for the The Herald, ("Serving Snohomish County"), did not. She did provide a lot of information (April 28, 1994, page A1):

"School librarian Terry Snodgrass remembers her last year at North Middle School all too well: the headaches, the extreme fatigue and the roller coaster emotions.

. . . She felt fine during vacations and the summer months and would start feeling better on weekends. . . .

. . . "By Friday, we could barely move. We were just exhausted."

Snodgrass and at least three other staff members have left North Middle because of health problems since the school opened about 13 years ago, said Mike Sells, president of the Everett Education Association-United Teachers of Everett.

. . .

The librarian Snodgrass replaced in 1984 ended up in the intensive care unit . . . because of the air quality problems at North, she said.

"She was kind of like the canaries they used in the coal mines," Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass believes that 30 staff members left North because of sickness, but didn't tell the administration that for fear of being branded as "crazy.""

CO2 Makes You Crazy

I get the impression that many people were aware that there was a problem. Many didn't want to admit it. The district administration at first tried to tell Snodgrass it was all in her head. Perhaps some progress has been made. Maybe not. Why is no one demanding to know what effect this has on learning and behavior? Set aside the illness. How can teachers and kids concentrate and do their jobs in such an environment? Tired. "Roller coaster emotions." Would this result in poor performance and behavior problems? Then, why is no one saying so?

We learn that the teachers' association was informed. Is there anyone who believes that they would not complain to their union? Did the union tell its membership in other cities, areas, or regions? Why is this problem still wide-spread 5 years later?

Five years later. Do we see a lot more behavior problems? School shootings? Performance worse? Do you know the symptoms of carbon dioxide? "Dumbing down." Have you heard that? Is it part of someone's agenda? Would the same people who demand that your children compete in the "global economy" be the same ones who want your kids in sealed schools? Why?

Have you been so "stupeified" that you can't see the answer? Get out of your "weatherized" home and your "stultifying" office cubicle. Pull your head out of your ass, get some fresh air and wake up!

Take a deep breath. Look around.

(Follow-up . . . Part 2)

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