Several Ottawa elementary students have burns and rashes on their buttocks after going to the bathroom in their east end school.

Parents of children at Avalon Public School raised the alarm bells; now the school board is investigating to find out the cause. So far, 6 children have come forward with "sunburn-like" rashes. All the children are girls with the exception of one boy with a rash on his elbows.

It is a strange enough occurrence but stranger still, that it happened to another little girl in the same school 3 months earlier.

Late this afternoon, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board believed it had found the source of the problem. The issue began last Friday morning, shortly after the children had settled in for the beginning of class. Six young girls at Avalon school in Orleans complained to office staff about a burning sensation on their back legs and bum. They had all been to the same bathroom although not all at the same time. Superintendent of Instruction for the Board’s east end schools describes what the rashes looked like, “I've seen photos of a couple,” says Neil Yorke-Slader, “and I would describe it as a sunburn but quite a strong sunburn, pink, blistery, that kind of look.”

The Ottawa Public School Board uses a disinfectant manufactured by Swish called “Swish Clean and Green Disinfectant Concentrate.” The disinfectant is used to clean bathrooms, doorknobs and desks. ; It is used in hospitals and other institutions because it kills germs. It comes in concentrate form...diluted automatically by a dispensing machine.

“It’s fed up through a dispenser and mixes a pre-measured mixture with the chemical and placed in these safety bottles,” explains chief custodian at Confederation School in the city’s southwest end. The chemical is used in all Ottawa's public schools. It has a health hazard warning of 3 out of 4 and can cause skin irritation. In fact, a young girl developed serious blisters at the same school in November.

“It hasn't happened at any other school that I’m aware of at all,” says Yorke-Slader. “More than 150 schools. It seems to be a localized situation and is obviously very difficult for the parents involved.”

None of the parents whose children were affected would agree to be interviewed, but some of the parents said they had concerns about how quickly office staff had responded to complaints from kids about a burning sensation. One father said his daughter “had a burn in the shape of a toilet seat and that it burned from the moment she sat down.”

Late Monday afternoon, the board confirmed that tests on the disinfectant showed the chemical mixture was right. But a swab of the toilet seats found residue on the seats. Proper procedure calls for the seats to be rinsed after the chemical is applied. The board says it's meeting with the custodial staff to make sure they'll do that and the toilets will be tested every night to make sure.