School illness still stumps toxicologists
A couple of weeks ago, several children from Leihoku Elementary School were taken to the hospital with bloody noses and vomiting. Was the cause of this problem ever discovered and handled?
Answer: Initially, the likely cause of the irritant that sent 11 students and one teacher to a clinic on Nov. 3 was thought to be lime in concrete dust originating from a nearby construction site.
However, neither that, nor any chemical source, was found to be the cause.
The Honolulu Fire Department checked the brush area upwind of the school when it arrived at the school, and found no chemical spills, according to the state Department of Health.
Spills from bags of lime or "Portland cement" (a type of cement) were cited as the possible cause of the "occasional sneezing" and two nosebleeds initially reported by students, said Health Department toxicologist Leslie Au.
This possibility was relayed by phone to fire and school officials, as health officials were en route to the school, he said. It also was reported by the news media.
However, when health and fire officials inspected the construction site at the front of the school, no such spills were found.
Au said there also was no reddening nor strong irritation of eyes, as would have been caused by a windblown chemical. Furthermore, the strong wind that day would have carried any construction-site substance away from the campus, he said.
Health Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic added that the incident came at the end of two days of strong winds, which created dusty conditions.
"Add to that the construction, as well as some additional clearing of brush and vegetation near the school grounds, and there was the possibility of some dirt or natural sediment being blown in the air," he said.
Cheplic emphasized that students were not exposed to any type of toxic chemicals, so should not have any long-term or lasting effects from the incident. He also said there were no reports of vomiting.
Three students had bloody noses; four complained of ear, nose and throat irritation; and four others were hyperventilating and crying because of the stress. All were released following treatment at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.
Q: Is it legal for a homeowner to paint a public parking curb all red as if the city did it? The owner was observed painting the curb at least one car length on each side of his driveway.
A: No, it is not legal. You can report it to the Honolulu Police Department at 911.
Spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii pointed out that "we don't cite for red curb violations," anyway. (The city, except in certain places, such as bus stops, has stopped such curb painting.)
The parking violation needs to be something more specific, such as parking within four feet of a driveway or parking out of a stall, Fujii said.
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