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Michigan School Closes Over Mesothelioma Risk Concerns

Central Michigan University’s largest administration area, Warriner Hall, has closed its doors for the time being, after air quality testing showed elevated levels of asbestos in the first and second stories of the building. Faculty who typically work on these floors include more than 150 school administrative staff, and they are temporarily forced to conduct their business in other parts of the school pending asbestos remediation in the area.

Asbestos dust: a microscopic killer

Asbestos was used frequently in the construction of buildings all over the United States prior to the 1980s, when public awareness of the severe health complications that can be caused by asbestos exposure grew more widespread and restrictions on the substance’s usage began being put in place. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that takes on a fibrous shape. It is inherently flame retardant and works well as an insulation material. However, when the fibers become airborne, the microscopic particles can be breathed in or swallowed, and when this occurs, the body is unable to excrete them, causing the fibers to become embedded in the linings of the lungs, abdominal cavity, and heart. This leads to asbestos-related illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma cancer.

How the university is handling the problem

Air tests were conducted and came back clear the day before contractors conducting work on water lines in the building noticed an insulated pipe running through the ventilation ducts in their work area—a pipe that was likely insulated with asbestos sometime between the building’s original construction in 1928 and the 1970s. When the air was tested the following day, asbestos was present, causing for an immediate evacuation of the structure. Warriner Hall will remain closed until air tests come back all clear, at which time faculty, students and visitors will once again be welcomed into the area. No specific timeline has been set for the abatement at this time.

Why remediation is so important

Although the long-standing belief that encapsulation—covering asbestos-containing materials over with sturdy, asbestos-free materials to keep the asbestos from degrading and becoming friable—was a safe way to deal with structural asbestos remains popular, no study to date has yet shown a safe level of exposure to any kind of asbestos. Thus, the practice of encapsulation is becoming less popular, and is being given up in favor of full remediation and removal of the carcinogenic material in accordance with increasingly strict environmental guidelines for transport and disposal.

Source: https://www.cmich.edu/news/article/Pages/Warriner-Hall-temporarily-closed-for-asbestos-abatement.aspx

Tamara VanWormer

Tamara VanWormer is a writer and editor based in southern California, in a small town adjacent to the United States border with Mexico. Her career path was dappled with dabblings in various fields, including several years spent in healthcare, which gave her access to the latest information about cutting-edge cancer research and sparked her interest in mesothelioma diagnosis and care.

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