Pupils lost consciousness and two of them were rushed to hospital after they inhaled bromine gas in an Advanced Level laboratory at St Bernard’s High school in Bulawayo’s Old Pumula suburb.
There was panic at the Catholic-run school among pupils and teachers and an ambulance had to be called.
Sources said some pupils started having breathing problems while others complained of dizziness. Two of them were rushed to the hospital and later discharged.
A teacher at the school said a pupil accidentally spilled the bromine liquid which immediately changed into gaseous form.
“Pupils were moving lab chemicals and equipment to a new lab that has been constructed when one was accidentally hit by a door resulting in the spillage. Everything around that area became yellow causing panic and all the pupils were quickly removed from the lab,” said the teacher who cannot be named for ethical reasons.
The teacher said some pupils immediately began experiencing breathing problems, asthma attacks and some lost consciousness. The school’s head only identified as Ndlovu confirmed the incident but declined to give details.
“I’m not allowed to talk to the press but what I can say is that we’ve sent a report to the district offices and they’ve been here,” said Ndlovu.
Bulawayo provincial education director, Dan Moyo said no pupil had been hospitalised after the mishap.
The pupils were moving chemicals and equipment to a new laboratory when one hit a door and the bromine liquid spilled on the floor resulting in a hazy smoke,” said Moyo.
He said the pupils we immediately cleared from the laboratory and the affected pupils rushed to hospital for examination.
School sources claimed that some pupils choked on the gas and some fainted.
Immediate signs and symptoms of inhaling bromine gas are coughing, breathing problems, and headaches. Irritation of mucous membranes, dizziness and having watery eyes are other symptoms.
Effects of inhaling bromine are long-term lung problems.
In March this year, a teacher died at Mandwandwe High School in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb after allegedly inhaling poisonous fumes at the school’s science laboratory.
After the science teacher’s death, the school was forced to close its science laboratories.
The school faced accusations of not following recommended procedures and standards for chemical storage.
Trust Ncube died after complaining of chest pains and reporting breathing difficulties reportedly from a leakage in the lab.