MARBLEHEAD – Some 400 students were evacuated from Brown Elementary School in the city around 12:15 p.m. Monday when a coolant leak was discovered in a school refrigeration system.
According to Marblehead Fire Chief Jason Gilliland, what was described as a “freon” leak was discovered at the Baldwin Street school shortly after noon.
Firefighters arrived within minutes, as did the state’s Hazmat team, and all students, staff and faculty quickly evacuated the building.
Chief Gilliland said no one suffered from the leakage of the substance and the students had all been transferred to other schools in the city for the remainder of the day.
He was unable to say on Monday afternoon whether Brown School would reopen on Tuesday.
Freon, the brand name for a fluorinated hydrocarbon gas, is a tasteless, generally odorless and low-toxic gas used as a coolant in the United States until 2020.
Although the chef did not clarify whether the leaking refrigerant was in fact Freon, most refrigeration and air conditioning products made in the United States since 2010 do not contain Freon.
At that time, it was banned by the United States and most European countries because of its effect on the ozone layer and its consequent contribution to the global alert.
Most refrigeration and cooling machines now use “Puron”, another hydrofluorocarbon compound that has negligible effect on the ozone layer.
Puron is also less toxic than the banned Freon, but it can still damage the lungs if inhaled in large amounts or over a period of time.