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University at Buffalo Renovations Delayed for Asbestos Abatement


In December, the University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York, started construction on its “Heart of Campus” project designed to create “new learning landscapes.” Just a few months into the project, however, administrators received word that asbestos found in Capen Hall must be removed before continuing with the project.

According to UB’s website, the “Heart of Campus” project includes a “complete transformation” of the Oscar A. Silverman Library on the third floor of Capen Hall. When this Phase I portion is completed, students will have access to “bright, new, flexible study areas.” The library is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

The asbestos discovery has delayed the start of the renovations in the library until after June 5, when the abatement project is scheduled to be completed, pushing the renovation project out at least two months, according to an April 9 article in the UB Spectrum. Asbestos was found in the glue of the vinyl floor tiles of the library floor and between the wall-boards. A joint compound is applied where two drywall sheets meet in order to seal the seams. It is in this compound where asbestos was used as a filler.

The University has hired certified asbestos removal contractors who will be using high-efficiency particulate arrestance filters as well as required asbestos containment processes to ensure asbestos fibers do not escape and become airborne.

“We are concerned they [asbestos fibers] will get airborne because they can cause various diseases when exposed,” said David Vasbinder, the associate director of environment health and safety. “The federal process requires we put all these systems in place,” Vasbinder said. “We also have to monitor the air to make sure those methods are effective.”

The use of asbestos-laden construction products was widely prevalent in the U.S. until the 1970’s, which is around the time the floor tiles were installed in the library. The mineral that was used for its strength and durability is also a known carcinogen. However, unless the asbestos becomes damaged, it does not pose a health hazard. If the materials are inhaled, pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, can develop.

The management of asbestos is highly regulated, and cleanup efforts for the toxin require trained experts who specialize in the removal of this hazardous substance and who should be contracted for the work.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable cancer caused by asbestos exposure that often leaves patients with few treatment options and a prognosis of less than one year after diagnosis. Mesothelioma has an extended latency period, and it can take between 15 and 60 years for symptoms to present themselves. 3,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

For updates on the “Heart of Campus” project visit the project’s dedicated website.

If you have been suffering from asbestos-related diseases, our recommended asbestos lawyers at Belluck & Fox, LLP can certainly help you. Visit our office in the City of New York today.

Image Credit: Office of University Communications, University at Buffalo of the State University of New York

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