Testing shows styrene detected in Spooner Middle School, building to reopen Tuesday

Spooner Middle School in Spooner, Wis.
Spooner Middle School in Spooner, Wis.(KBJR/CBS)
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 3:05 PM CST
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SPOONER, WI -- Testing shows the chemical styrene was detected in the Spooner Middle School the day the building was evacuated and dozens of students and staff got sick.

According to the Spooner School District, these results stemmed from environmental testing, industrial hygiene, and occupational medicine reviews of data collected from the middle school building after the Wednesday, Nov. 10 incident.

Spooner Middle School in Spooner, Wis.
Spooner Middle School in Spooner, Wis.(KBJR/CBS)

Students and staff originally reported a “epoxy-like” smell. The building was evacuated and shortly after, people started feeling ill.

They reported dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness, all consistent with symptoms of styrene exposure.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, styrene is a colorless, flammable liquid, which has a sweet odor and is highly volatile.

It’s used to make plastics and rubber, which are used to manufacture a variety of products, such as insulation, pipes, automobile parts, printing cartridges, food containers, and carpet backing.

District leaders did not immediately say what led to styrene’s presence in the building.

The chemical is no longer present in the school building, and district officials say they have been told an exposure of this level would not bring about long-term health effects.

Health and safety officials say the middle school building is safe to reopen.

Students in grades 5-8 will head back to in-person classes on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

Environmental monitoring devices have been installed around the building “in an abundance of caution.”

Crews will also be on site Wednesday to conduct more testing.

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