Chalk dust to blame for evacuation of Sandy Spring classroom

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:


SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - Channel 2 Action New has learned that chalk dust was to blame for nearly two dozen people getting sick at a Sandy Springs school.

It sickened 20 people, sending three kids to a hospital.

As Channel 2's Mike Petchenik arrived at the school Monday morning, firefighters were suiting up to go inside, and emergency medical crews were tending to sick students.

"We had several students that presented with irritation in their nose, eyes and throat," Sandy Springs Deputy Fire Chief Mark Duke told Petchenik.

In all, officials said 19 students and one teacher from an eighth-grade class complained after coming in contact with a suspicious powdery substance.

"Once the substance was seen or noted, that's when the students started complaining of the irritation," Duke said.

Fire officials told Petchenik three children ended up at Children's Heathcare of Atlanta, at Scottish Rite, for observation.

"The school's HVAC system was shut down," Duke said.

Soon after, Petchenik saw an Alpharetta Fire Department hazardous materials truck arrive to assess the situation.

"They determined the substance, the white powder, was calcium carbonate, which is consistent with chalk dust," Duke said.

Duke said the room didn't have a chalkboard, so investigators are trying to find out from where it came.

Fulton County Schools police were doing interviews with school officials to find out what happened and how the chalk dust got into the room.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calcium carbonate can cause irritation of the eyes and skin, but there are no long-term health effects from it.

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