Asbestos, known to be a human carcinogen, can be found throughout buildings built prior to the 1980s. While intact, the material does not pose a health hazard. However, once the asbestos becomes friable, or breaks apart, anyone exposed has a lifelong health risk.
Ensuring proper management of asbestos is critical for protecting the public’s health. Officials at Brandeis University are doing just that, and took advantage of the quiet summer to remove some of the offending material from vacant dormitory buildings.
According to a Sept. 8 article in Brandeis University’s school paper, The Justice, the Waltham, MA university contracted with asbestos removal companies to clear asbestos from the flooring and pipe and plumbing fixtures in Reitman, Cable and Shapiro A and B dormitories.
Executive Director of Integrated Media, William Schaller, alerted the paper of the work via email, noting that the asbestos was discovered during a pre-construction survey. According to The Justice, the dorm buildings were built in the 1950s.
Although asbestos is no longer used in the construction of buildings, it is found in houses, schools and other structures built prior to the mid-1980s. Asbestos-containing products were used in roofing materials, floor tiles, caulk, joint compound, ceiling tiles and insulation. When these older buildings are remodeled, renovated or gutted, the asbestos materials are loosened, and the friable material can be released into the air, leading to health hazards.
Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of exposure.
In compliance with health and safety regulations, and to protect its students, employees and visitors to campus, Brandeis University developed its Asbestos Management Plan. The plan is “designed to recognize potential asbestos containing material (PACM), establish evaluation for asbestos content, and outline notification protocols so that appropriate controls can be implemented to minimize any possible exposure to staff, students, and visitors.”
In the 12-page plan, the University recognizes that “with many Campus buildings and facilities potentially containing asbestos materials” asbestos assessments are critical and will be planned as needed. In order to appropriately manage the campus resources, assessments will “be carried out when PACM or known ACM has been disturbed by some activity or when repair, renovation or demolition activities on campus may disturb these materials.”
Asbestos abatement projects require close adherence to federal, state and local guidelines. As such, asbestos removal areas are off-limits to non-certified asbestos professionals. As noted in the Brandeis asbestos plan, “Any areas where abatement activities are occurring shall be restricted to authorized personnel. Authorized personnel shall include only Massachusetts certified asbestos workers, supervisors, project monitors, and emergency response personnel.”
If you have been suffering from asbestos-related diseases, our skilled asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP can certainly help you. Visit our offices in New York City and Albany now.