I may be going out on a limb here, but getting cancer-causing materials out of our buildings seems like it should be a pretty big priority. I would think that we would put the safety of our students, faculty, staff and administrators above pretty much any other concern. Apparently, we’re okay with just saying, “Nah, you’ll be fine.”
According to CSUN Environmental Health and Safety, asbestos has been found in 21 buildings on campus, including such high traffic areas as the bookstore complex, Sierra Hall and the Oviatt Library.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been used for centuries to increase resistance to fire, but if it’s inhaled in sufficient quantities it can cause lung cancer and a disease known as asbestosis, in which the lungs create an acid to dissolve the asbestos only to scar the lungs. One of the alarming factors in these diseases is that it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to appear, too late to prevent the disease. According to CSUN Environmental Health and Safety, the Environmental Protection Agency banned several kinds of asbestos in the 1970s.
The asbestos at CSUN doesn’t really pose an immediate danger, though. Asbestos is only dangerous when it is disturbed and becomes airborne, and most of the asbestos at CSUN is either in floor tiles or relatively low usage areas like maintenance access areas. In Santa Susana Hall, for instance, only three rooms contain asbestos in their floor tiles. In the library, asbestos is only found in the chiller room and the basement.
What has me concerned is where asbestos is in places like the bookstore complex. The bookstore complex has asbestos in its chilled water pipe elbows, lagging and insulation and floor mastic in “various rooms.” I have to wonder exactly which rooms constitute “various rooms.” The ceiling area of The Edge mini-mart is basically a bunch of pipes, and I have to wonder if the mini-mart is one of those “various areas.”
Regardless, I don’t like the idea of having asbestos anywhere on campus. Even if the danger is small, it seems like one of those things that we should be taking care of during the summer or winter sessions when it would have the least impact on the educational process, especially seeing as the areas containing asbestos are often fairly isolated. Instead, we’ve handed out fliers instructing staff of the danger of drilling holes and hanging plants and telling them to call Physical Plant Management if the asbestos becomes disturbed.
I suppose we will eventually just have to remove the asbestos bit by bit due to the deterioration of other building materials. It will probably turn out to be cheaper that way. Still, it seems like taking care of asbestos should really be a high priority, instead of the shrug and a pat on the back the university seems to have made it.