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Quebec daycare where kids were overcome by carbon monoxide didn't have detector

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SAINT-EUSTACHE, Que. - A Quebec daycare where children were overcome by carbon monoxide did not have a detector to alert staff, authorities said Tuesday.

At least five children were overcome by carbon monoxide at Les petits explorateurs daycare centre in St-Eustache, north of Montreal.

Later in the day, local hospital officials said none of the children's lives were in danger.

Those who experienced the more serious symptoms were transferred to a children's hospital in Montreal for further follow-up.

"The first ones to arrive by ambulance showed symptoms of typical intoxication," Dr. Alain Turcotte, the director of professional services, told a news conference Tuesday. "Five young children were transferred to St. Justine's hospital so they could be followed more closely. . . they showed more severe symptoms of intoxication."

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas that is toxic to humans in high concentrations.

Turcotte also said that two of the children had actually lost consciousness and others were vomiting and complaining of nausea and headaches.

The rest of the daycare's 72 children and about 10 staff were taken to the St-Eustache hospital by school bus as a preventive measure and treated with oxygen.

A regional health department spokeswoman said there was no carbon monoxide detector installed at the centre.

"In an ideal world, everyone would have had a carbon monoxide detector, like they have a smoke detector," Dr. Marie-Claude Lacombe said. "But in this case there was not one."

The St-Eustache fire department said its preliminary investigation points to a propane-fuelled floor cleaning machine used at the daycare as the potential source.

"At this stage, we can say that we suspect equipment used to clean floors," said fire chief Charles de Rouville.

"We took readings (and) there were high readings of carbon monoxide," de Rouville said.

The daycare was quickly aired out by firefighters.

The incident caught the attention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who expressed his concerns about the state of the children on his Twitter account.

"Very worrisome news out of St-Eustache," he wrote. "Hoping for the quick recovery of all those involved."

In Quebec City, Families Minister Francine Charbonneau promised the incident will be subject to an administrative investigation. The daycare is a private, subsidized facility.

She said it was probably stressful for parents who were contacted and asked to come to the hospital.

"It must have been terrible for a parent to get a phone call," she said.

Charbonneau said that initially there were suspicions that the children were affected by a flu bug, but staff quickly realized something else was wrong.

- By Peter Rakobowchuk in Montreal

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