Airborne weed killer sends Hawaii Island students to hospital

Dozens of students at Honokaa High and Intermediate Schools were taken to the hospital on Thursday after a chemical odor made them sick.

Students and teachers started feeling ill shortly before 9 o’clock this morning. Forty children and 10 adults were taken to the hospital with symptoms of nausea, dizziness and breathing problems.

Everyone, including students from Honokaa Elementary, was sent home around 10:45 this morning so emergency crews could figure out exactly what caused so many people to get sick. HAZMAT investigators got to the bottom of it and turns out it was from a bottle of herbicide, or weed killer.

The investigators found a neighbor close to the school campus, doing yard work, spraying pesticides on their property.

“We were informed that we were receiving five patients to our ER via ambulance, so our HAZMAT team set up this tent behind me to get ready to decon any patients that were coming in,” said Teana Kahoohanohano, Hale Ho’ola Hospital administrator.

Those affected were doused and washed with soap and water, and reclothed with hospital gowns and warm blankets.

This type of health scare has happened before at other school campuses and in other communities, so KHON2 News asked Hawaii County Council member Valerie Poindexter if more should be done to prevent this from happening.

“People who are unfamiliar with toxic chemicals — and it’s easily accessible in the stores — may be causing damage to our citizens, but not intentionally harming us,” she said. “I’m worried the protections are not in place with toxic chemicals.”

Poindexter said she plans on setting up a meeting with the community about today’s incident.

All Honokaa schools will re-open on time tomorrow.

 

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