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S.A.F.E. (School parents Against Fungal Exposure: Advocating for Environmentally Healthy and Safe Learning Environments for All Children) was formed by a group of parents over health concerns for their children in portables contaminated with mould. In November 1998 mould was found in portables at a rural school just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. The school board did not remove students upon verbal verification of mould present and failed to inform parents of this due diligence issue. SAFE began to educate themselves with whatever information they could access throught the Internet. We compiled a list of children exibiting symptoms consisent with exposure to moulds in these portables. The school board and health unit, in our opinion, failed to adequately address the health of the children. We were forced to take our story to the media and following a protest outside the school a survey was sent to parents as to what they wanted for their children. Parents elected, overwelmingly, to have the children housed within the school for the remainder of the year.
We continued to gather information, including the recommeded documents suggested in a letter, to all school boards, from the Ministry of Education (sent March 1998). One of the documents recommended was a document published by Health Canada in June 1995: Fungal Contamination in Public Buildings: A Guide to Recognition and Management.
Mould was found in our school in March 2000. There were numerous concerns over communication with School Council and full disclosure of all information. SAFE was told by the Medical Officer of Health, when questioned about doing a health survey as recommended by Health Canada, that he did not have to follow this document because they were 'guidelines' not 'standards'.
We have found that there are no laws to protect the health of our children in schools. There is a misconception that they are protected under the Occupational Health and Safety Act throught the employees at schools. This is inadequate! Employees may be intimidated, threatened with job loss, or choose not to speak up because they do not care or understand children's health issues. Until there are laws and standards based on children parents will continue to have to advocate for their children.
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