Cornell University in New York Focused on Safe Asbestos Removal Across Campus

Researchers at Cornell University have been at the forefront of cancer research. “Cornell Dots”, unique nanoparticles that glow brightly and can light up cancer cells in PET-optical imaging, and “super natural killer cells” that seek out cancerous cells leading the cells to self-destruct, both from Cornell, have been touted as groundbreaking treatment discoveries that stand to benefit mesothelioma patients.

Now, the university is conducting asbestos abatement across the campus in a proactive effort to prevent health hazards from asbestos contamination down the road.

Founded in 1865, much of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, was built in the 1900’s when asbestos was commonly used in building materials. Although intact asbestos does not pose a health hazard, when it becomes friable, or crumbles, asbestos fibers can be inhaled leading to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there is no safe level of exposure of asbestos. Anyone exposed to the mineral faces a life-long risk of developing mesothelioma.

In an effort to proactively manage the asbestos throughout campus and “to minimize potential health risks to the University community,” The Cornell University Asbestos Management Program was established.  Prior to any renovation work on the campus, or when asbestos containing material is found to be damaged, the Asbestos Management Program is contacted.

According to a March 15 article in the Cornell Sun, Tim Fitzpatrick, director of occupational health and safety at Cornell, said that asbestos abatement projects “occur on an ongoing basis” at Cornell. The only current active abatement project is at the Cornell Dairy facility in Hartford, New York, he said.

However, students in Balch Hall, a first-year women’s residence hall first opened in 1929, raised concerns about the work when they saw caution signs in their dorm earlier this year.

Frank Parish, Rand Hall Unit Facility Director, who is overseeing the extensive renovation work being conducted at Rand Hall, a fine arts buidling, says there is no reason for concern during any asbestos abatement work at the University.

“Before a project begins, we do a thorough study of the materials that we will be touching and we have to test them to see if any of them are asbestos-containing,” said Parish. “If they are, we actually hire companies to abate the asbestos and lead paint.” He added that the asbestos contractors are very knowledgeable and know all the laws and procedures and keep the university officials apprised of the project.

According to the University’s website, the Asbestos Management Program operates with the following objectives:

  • Minimize employee, student and visitor exposure to the hazards of airborne asbestos fibers.
  • Provide technical services related to asbestos removal projects on the Cornell campus.
  • Ensure asbestos abatement waste is disposed of properly.
  • Comply with the applicable regulatory requirements.

The Cornell Sun reports that they first reported about asbestos abatement projects at the University in 1980. And Parish anticipates much more work in the future.

“So basically asbestos is everywhere,” Parish said. “In the tiles you’re walking on, the walls … This takes forever because most of the buildings are old.”

The danger of developing mesothelioma is a life-long risk for those exposed to asbestos.  Preventing exposure in the first place, by undertaking abatement projects like at Cornell University,  is the only way to protect the public and to eliminate the health risks. Close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related disease, you need to speak with our reliable asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP today. Visit our New York law office now.

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