Suspected gas leak at St. Francis turns out to be dead cats in formaldehyde

Two St. Francis Catholic High School teachers were transported to the hospital Thursday morning after being exposed to fumes from containers storing dead cats preserved in formaldehyde.

Sacramento firefighters responded at about 10 a.m. to a 911 call about a suspected gas leak at the East Sacramento school, said fire department spokesman Capt. Keith Wade.

Wade said there were reports of an “unpleasant smell.”

Along with the teachers, nine students were assessed by first responders, who determined they did not require further treatment, said Wade.

Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, said the teachers were taken to the hospital out of “an abundance of caution,” and no update on their condition was immediately available.

Pacific Gas and Electric technicians investigated the school and discovered the preserved cats were the source of the smell, Wade said. The containers, stored in a lab, became warm because they were near a heater, increasing the odor of the formaldehyde, Wade said.

The cats are used for dissections in a biology class, said Eckery.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause watery eyes; a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing or wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation, according to the National Cancer Institute.

By 11:30 a.m. classes were back in session, though some parents had picked up their kids early, Wade said.

Police spokeswoman Officer Linda Matthew said police had not been dispatched.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates