British Columbia

Black mould making kids sick at Nelson school, parents say

Parents at Hume Elementary School in Nelson, B.C., say their children have been getting sick from black mould growing in the school's lunch room.

Contractors now removing mould at Hume Elementary School

Elementary school students file into Hume School in Nelson on Dec. 19, 2012. Parents say a number of children have fallen ill from black mould found underneath the school's lunch room. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Parents at Hume Elementary School in Nelson, B.C., say their children have been getting sick from black mould in the building.

The Kootenay Lake School District admits mould was found in a crawlspace below the lunch room, in the school's old gym, and it will be removed. But parents say the mould is triggering health problems in their children.

'He was gasping for breath. He couldn't speak.'—Iris Steffler, Che's mother

Iris Steffler rushed her 8-year-old son Che to the hospital emergency room on November 19 when he struggled to breathe in the middle of the night.

"He woke me. He was gasping for breath. He couldn't speak," she said.

Che was having his first-ever asthma attack.

"The possibility of excess mould levels at his school puts his health at risk as no other precipitant has been identified," wrote the emergency room doctor in a letter to the school.

Several students experience breathing problems

Steffler says her son hasn't been the only one experiencing health problems. 

"There have been three or four other parents also affected, or their children," she said.

Letters were sent to parents in September warning mould had been found at Hume Elementary and a staff member demanded to be transferred as a result.

Steffler says parents are worried the school district isn't being completely up front with them. 

"Mostly we just want information. There hasn't been a lot of information forthcoming," she said.

"Mostly I just want to ... rule out the mould and air quality issues as a factor in this or confirm it is so we can take appropriate action."

Mould to be removed by January 2013

The school district has sealed off the affected area and contractors have begun removing the mould while classes continue as scheduled.

Superintendent Jeff Jones says the air in the rest of the school is fine. 

"Our air quality tests that we've done in parts of the school populated by students and staff show the quality of the air inside the school is as good or better as we have outside," he said.

"If at any time we had been advised it was unsafe we were prepared to closed the building until the issue was resolved."

Jones says the area has been sealed off and the mould will be gone by the time students return to class in January.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating