Propylene glycol is a colorless, mostly odorless organic compound notable for its sweet taste and wide range of applications. With propylene glycol popping up in everything from deodorant to the coolant used in air conditioning systems, you likely come in contact with it every day.
One place it shouldn’t show up is in the water you drink. While propylene glycol is not extremely toxic, it was strong enough to send 75 elementary students to the hospital last Tuesday.
Suspicions were first raised after a large number of students at Public School 20 in Queens complained of stomach pain shortly after using the drinking fountains installed in the school’s new wing. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority was called and provided buses for 71 students from the school who were taken to hospitals in the surrounding area.
Students later reported seeing pink water in the school toilets and water fountains. Investigators soon determined the cause of the discolored water, and sick children, to be propylene glycol, dumped into the school’s water supply by a worker fixing the building’s air conditioning.
Bayside Refrigeration, the contract company hired to fix the air conditioning system, are being held completely responsible for the incident and no premise liability suits have been filed, yet.
While all 75 students who reported feeling ill are expected to make full recoveries, school officials are more than a little concerned. Parents, understandably, were quite concerned for their children’s safety.