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Risks of Asbestos Exposure on College Campuses

asbestos_exposureWhenever people think about the dangers surrounding one’s exposure to asbestos, images of old, rundown factories or office buildings may come to mind. But in the last few months, I’ve come across at least two news articles that highlighted the presence of asbestos on college campuses.

This greatly worries us here at Kazan Law. When college students think about their futures 20 to 50 years from now, they should be picturing themselves happy in stimulating careers and not struggling with diseases such as malignant mesothelioma.

Discoveries are startling at Kansas State University
Student union buildings serve as hubs of activity on college campuses. These busy locales are where young individuals have lunch, student organizations hold their meetings and student body leaders meet with school faculty. At Kansas State University, Manhattan, people on campus were in for a rude awakening when officials discovered that the Union building, as well as other structures, contained asbestos. This led to restrictions as well as closures of certain rooms and floors.

All employees of the Union building were alerted to the danger and told that they were safe as long as no one disturbed the asbestos. Meanwhile, campus officials have to avoid making certain alterations to their surroundings, such as erecting walls that reach all the way up to the ceilings.

‘Skip the thumbtacks and nails’
Decorative posters are a natural way for college students to express themselves in their living spaces. However, last autumn, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia warned students who were staying in some of its campus housing units that they needed to avoid using thumbtacks or nails when hanging posters or other decorative items because of the threat of asbestos exposure.

Analyses of air samples around the school indicated that students were not in any immediate danger. Still, administrators advised students on campus to use sticky adhesives to hang items on their walls.

Campuses are responsible for keeping students safe
The danger of exposure to asbestos is that mineral fibers can cause serious damage to the body’s cells if they’re inhaled or ingested. Specifically, asbestos can lead to respiratory problems and malignant diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, throat and other tissues. One reason why public health experts are concerned about asbestos is that people may not be aware they have become sick from the material until decades have passed since they were exposed. By then, it is often too late for prognoses to be hopeful.

Asbestos was a common component of products used in construction on buildings that were erected before the 1980s. Specifically, asbestos may be present in insulation, textured wall surfaces, roofing tiles, electrical equipment, cement piping and other items.

College campuses are responsible for knowing what dangers their students face when it comes to asbestos. Campus ERC, an environmental advocacy group for higher education, lists several regulations that campuses must follow during major construction and renovation projects. Among them are requirements to adhere to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and communicate with the federal Environmental Protection Agency about the handling of asbestos-containing materials.

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