EXCLUSIVE: High levels of carbon dioxide found in 2 Houston ISD elementary school classrooms

A FOX 26 investigation reveals levels of carbon dioxide considered "above air quality guidelines" at a Houston Independent School District (HISD) elementary school.

According to documents obtained by FOX 26, high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) were recently discovered in at least two classrooms at Kelso Elementary School.

"I’ve been to 3 different doctors, one doctor told me to take FMLA and not to return to that school," said one anonymous teacher from Kelso Elementary.

The teacher wants to hide their identity out of fear of retaliation. However, the teacher says the air quality is affecting the health of staff members and students.

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"It’s the sub-standard air quality that makes me sick," said the teacher. "It gives me headaches; it makes me dizzy, and the kids. Some may have health issues that we don’t know about."

In documents gathered by FOX 26, an inspector photographed mold growth on pipes and air vents in the building. In addition, the inspector measured high levels of CO2 in two classrooms.

More than 1,800 CO2 parts per million (ppm) in one classroom and 2338 CO2 ppm in a second classroom. Experts believe CO2 levels above 1000 can cause "decreased wakefulness." While levels above 2500 ppm is considered "moderate pollution" leading to possible headaches, drowsiness, lethargy, and inability to concentrate.


According to the anonymous teacher we met with Friday, officials from the school or school district have not warned parents about the air quality issues.

"They have not shared that information," said the teacher. "It’s not fair that other people on campus don’t know what’s going on in our own school. If the school were in any other area in Houston, it would have immediate attention. If it was West U or River Oaks, parents wouldn’t tolerate that."

In a new set of documents we obtained from a more recent test taken at Kelso Elementary School in February, CO2 levels had decreased from the previous test to 1538 ppm and 1622 ppm.  However, CO2 levels in the same 2 classrooms were still "above recommended air quality guidelines".

A spokesperson from Houston Independent School District responded to the accusations with a statement relating to the mold located at the school.

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"HISD was made aware of an HVAC issue that occurred at one of our campuses," said a spokesperson from HISD. "As a part of standard protocol, HISD’s Risk Management Department were immediately contacted and were sent out to evaluate. The team confirmed that the substance was regular mold, which is not harmful and likely due to excess humidity and condensation in the air-conditioning system. As a precautionary measure, areas, where the mold was discovered, were quickly removed and sanitized. All students and faculty were kept safely away from those areas while work was completed. The system has been cleaned and is functioning."

"Yes, there may be mold that affects it, but if the air isn’t circulating we cannot breathe," said the teacher. "That’s the issue.  It’s not necessarily the mold, it’s the air quality."

The teacher says at least one of the classes in question will be moved to another room Monday. Students at Kelso Elementary are currently on Spring Break.