Originally Published February 27, 2007
A California State University, Northridge English teacher assistant shares a Santa Susana room with five other faculty members. Not too long ago, Cynthia Glucksman received a notification through e-mail that the room had asbestos in its tile floor.
But she and her office-mates are not the only ones to receive a notice of this sort. Twenty-one other buildings on campus also have asbestos in their tile floor, thermal pipe insulators, or other forms of pipes.
According to a chart released by Environmental Health and Services, among the contaminated areas are the Child ‘ Family Studies Lab School, the Black House, the Chicano Cultural Center, and the Asian American Studies Department in Jerome Richfield Hall.
All 21 areas should have identifying notifications by the main entrance of the building such the Student Health Center and the Matador Bookstore. Areas with asbestos-contaminated pipes have stickers or placards on them to identify the asbestos. However, the Sundial could not find the stickers or placards posted in some locations.
“It’s a little unsettling knowing about the asbestos,” said a CSUN staff member who wished to remain anonymous. “We are curious as to when and if it’s going to be fixed.”
If a person comes into contact with asbestos fibers, it can be brought home with them, by remaining in their shoes, clothes, skin and hair, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, it could take 10 to 40 years or more for an asbestos-related problem to pop up.
The Environmental Health and Safety Department has identified and notified the existing areas with asbestos, but have no plans to remove the minerals any time soon because it supposedly does not pose any health risk in its current condition.
The asbestos poses a serious health risk when the asbestos-containing material is deteriorating, disturbed, or damaged.
“As long as no one breaks the asbestos-containing material, it will not necessarily expose it (asbestos),” said Anthony Pepe, the Environmental Compliance Manager of the Environmental Health and Occupational Safety Department. “The chance that the metal deteriorates is slim.”
Although the chance of asbestos-containing materials to deteriorate or become damaged are slim, there is no system in place for regular checkups on the conditions of pipes, tiles or other objects.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a component of the U.S. Department of Labor, and is the federal agency responsible for health and safety regulations. The National Cancer Institute reports that “workers who are concerned about asbestos exposure in the workplace, should discuss the situation with other employees, their employee health and safety representative and their employers.”
This means certain rooms that are not visited on a consistent basis can go ignored indefinitely.
A large portion of asbestos was removed from CSUN buildings after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Because of the damage done by the earthquake it was necessary to remodel buildings across campus.
The act of remodeling buildings would result in exposing the asbestos by disrupting the carcinogenic-contained materials.
This was the main reason asbestos was removed from a number of buildings on campus. The only way those areas will be asbestos-free is when remodeling or demolition occurs in those specific areas.
Removing the asbestos takes about a day or two, depending on the size of the job.
Most of the time is spent creating the containment area so that asbestos fiber is not leaked out into open air.
Air filters are used and ventilation is held off. After the asbestos-contained object is removed and bagged a few times, sampling and analysis of the air takes place. Workers wear protective gear and are provided with a protective environment.
“I just want some reassurance,” Glucksman said. “We don’t know what people are doing. People can be potentially irresponsible.” Although some may feel uneasy about the asbestos on campus, some are not worried at all.
“No one is going to peel off the tiles,” said Dona Wisidagama, a junior biotech major who works in one of the rooms with asbestos in the Santa Susana building. “It’s not going to affect me.”
The CSUN Environmental Health Web site contains information about asbestos and lead on campus. There is no applicable policy, however, and procedure consists of not damaging surfaces with asbestos.
Each January, EH’S updates the asbestos database and is supposed to notify employees who work in areas containing asbestos.
OSHA can provide more information or make an inspection, and regional offices can be found at http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.