Buildings containing asbestos deemed inhabitable

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map-buildingsUpdated at 10 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2013 to fix the headline.

Cal State Fullerton released its annual asbestos building report that details the location and gives information on campus buildings that may or may not contain asbestos fibers.

The 2013 report is compiled by CSUF’s Environmental Health and Instructional Safety, in accordance with California’s Notification Law and Safety Code Sections 25915. The law requires that notification be given for asbestos present in public buildings.

University employees were notified in January of the presence of asbestos in various campus buildings.

In general, buildings constructed before 1990, such as College Park, McCarthy Hall, Langsdorf Hall and the Humanities Building, are assumed to have been constructed with materials containing asbestos.

Asbestos is a mineral used in building materials for its fire resistant properties. It may be present in insulation, tiling, hot water and steam pipes, carpets, or other construction materials.

Colleen Wilkins, Environmental Health and Instructional Safety officer, said most asbestos on campus is found within floor tiles.

If left undisturbed, asbestos does not pose a risk or health hazard to the campus community.

“If it’s in materials and no one is touching it, no one is playing with it, it’s not really a problem for workers,” said John Breskey, Ph.D., an assistant health science professor.

The risk of exposure occurs when construction or deconstruction are underway and asbestos comes out of the materials and into the air.

When this occurs, a removal job is scheduled. Willem van der Pol, Physical Plant director, said a removal job is typically triggered by another project.

“A remodeling project can potentially cause the disturbance of asbestos and makes it, therefore, a priority for removal,” Van der Pol said.

In 2012, various removal jobs were conducted in McCarthy Hall and the Kinesiology and Health Science, Humanities and Visual Arts buildings.

The removal jobs were completed in seven different months, with four of the jobs being completed during the course of the semester on weekends.

“Most jobs are scheduled for breaks or summer because there are fewer people on campus,” Wilkins said. “Jobs are done on the weekend because no one but the police are here.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, inhalation of asbestos fibers is the primary cause of asbestos-related disease. If fibers are not expelled through mucus secretions or coughing, they may become embedded in the lungs.

The three major types of asbestos-related disease are Asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma.

“It’s a mineral … so your immune system can’t break it down,” Breskey said. “It tries to break it down, but it can’t so it ends up making a lot of scar tissue and if you let that progress long enough over the course of years, you can actually end up getting respiratory diseases.”

To avoid health complications, many precautions have to be taken prior to removing asbestos. Removal must be done by specially trained individuals that are certified.

Small removal jobs are done by Facilities Operations trade workers, while large projects are done by contractors specializing in removal.

“We have a number of our trade workers who are trained in this kind of work and we do small jobs, typically as part of a maintenance activity,” Van der Pol said.

After extensive training, the abatement contractors set up a containment. This includes closing off the area with plastic or, if it is a single room, sealing the door and the air supply, Wilkins said.

Jobs are prioritized according to the availability of the contractor. The cost of the removal jobs spans a variety of projects.

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