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HomeGeneralTennessee Elementary School Students and Teacher Hospitalized After Dry Ice Science Experiment

Tennessee Elementary School Students and Teacher Hospitalized After Dry Ice Science Experiment

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Dry Ice Producing a Cloud of Carbon Dioxide Smoke
Source: Pexels

A seemingly innocent science experiment took a dangerous turn, resulting in the hospitalization of 18 students and a teacher. The incident occurred at Vena Stuart Elementary School in Gallatin, where they were experimenting with dry ice. 

Dry ice doesn’t melt into a liquid like regular ice does when it gets warm. Instead, it goes through a special process called sublimation. That means it changes directly from a solid into a gas without becoming a liquid in between. So, as soon as the dry ice touches the warm water, it starts turning into gas right away.

When the dry ice gas mixes with the air and the tiny water droplets in the warm air, it creates a foggy cloud. It is more like a dramatic visual effect as it produces clouds of carbon dioxide “smoke.” So, the bubbling and fog in the container are just the dry ice turning into gas and mixing with the air around it. It’s a fun way to learn how different substances react when merged.

The dry ice experiment isn’t harmful if done correctly and under supervision. However, there are safety measures that can be put in place. For one, when experimenting, the area must be well-ventilated. The carbon dioxide gas produced during sublimation can displace oxygen in poorly ventilated spaces. 

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Where there is no energy, it can lead to potential health risks like nausea if inhaled in large quantities. Several students experienced nausea after the dry ice experiment in the reported incident at the school. This could have been attributed to them inhaling high levels of carbon dioxide gas. 

Sumner County Schools Director Dr. Scott Langford went online to address the incident. He said an external presenter led science experiments with third-grade students at the school, located 30 miles northeast of Nashville. 

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As part of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activity, one experiment involved using dry ice. However, shortly after they were done with the experiment, several students reported feeling nauseous. 

They quickly went to the school nurse for help, who then alerted the school administrators to the situation. Upon receiving the urgent notification, the school’s administrators called the Gallatin Fire Department and Sumner County first responders. 

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When they arrived, they initiated triage procedures with the nurse to assess the students’ conditions and provide necessary medical attention. In addition to providing care for the affected students, the response team, led by Langford, cleared the classroom to ensure proper ventilation. That way, they can circulate fresh air and remove any lingering traces of harmful substances.  

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“Out of an abundance of caution, 18 students and a teacher were transported to area hospitals to be checked on,” Langford said. “They’ve all been released back to their parents.” The director thanked the emergency crews, school officers, the nurse’s team, and everyone else who helped. 

Thankfully, all students were reported to be okay and were eventually released into the care of their parents. “They acted quickly, and our students are safe,” he concluded.

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