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Asbestos likely in old buildings

Associate News Editor

Published: Friday, November 19, 2010

Updated: Friday, November 19, 2010 05:11


Graphic design Tim Cook/Cardinal Points

Head of the janitorial department Dan Mariano said asbestos is “pretty much everywhere” in buildings more than 20 years old. Asbestos has been linked to several illnesses.

Asbestos, a highly regulated natural mineral, can be found in Plattsburgh State's older buildings.

The material is known to cause several lung diseases, according to the American Cancer Society.

The college may be required to remove the asbestos before renovations of Hudson and Beaumont Hall. can begin.

From floor tiles and roofing materials, to pipe and wire insulation, asbestos was used in many different building materials because it is heat resistant, non-conductive and chemically resistant.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in spray-applied materials in 1973 because it was found to be hazardous to people's health. Later, through the 1980s and 1990s asbestos was limited to very specific purposes, which does not include general construction.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma, Keith Tait, director of environment, health and safety, said. Asbestos, though, is only dangerous to people when it is disturbed and allowed to enter the air, and is not dangerous when it is bonded.

Any major renovations must be completed by a licensed contractor, but smaller scale renovations can be completed by a member of staff trained in small scale abatement.

"Every project starts with identification of ACM (Asbestos Containing Material) and removal of that ACM," Tait said. "One of the keys to managing asbestos on campus is to be proactive, not reactive."

In Beaumont, asbestos was found in the glue connecting the lab tables to their bases. Before the tables could be removed, the asbestos had to be removed first.

With a number of different techniques including creating a barrier between the area being abated, use of negative pressure and wet removal, the contracted company removed the asbestos from the area. Only the tables were removed, so no asbestos was disturbed besides that in the glue.

"You have to understand and be aware that it is present, and you have to avoid disturbance," Tait said.

If asbestos containing material is disturbed, people can be exposed, he said.

"You can expose our maintenance and operation staff. You can expose our janitorial staff and the key elements of the population," he said.

Linda Sichel, the campus architect, contracted the company to complete the work in Beaumont, and the removal of tables to move in new lab tables that can accommodate physics experiments.

 "In 1987, the state university did a broad survey of where we have asbestos in order to get their hands around how big the problem was," Sichel said. "We should always keep it in the back of our minds any time we do some construction work because we can always find something else behind what we are dealing with right now."

And PSUC found more asbestos.

While working on the Fieldhouse parking lot, buried in the ground, workers found asbestos piping that will have to be removed.

Both the Beaumont and Hudson Hall abatements are occurring to move all of the natural sciences into one building, Hudson and to update the labs.

The people most at risk of exposure are those who work in the maintenance and janitorial departments. As a result, the staffs of both departments are trained in asbestos awareness, including Dan Mariano, head of the janitorial department.

"It's a three to four hour course on where we might find asbestos, what the risks are and what to do if you do find it," Mariano said.

This course helps staff to identify situations that could lead to asbestos exposure. Many of the tiles on the floors are made with asbestos and bonded with asbestos glue. If a tile is uplifted or cracked, staff is notified and the situation is addressed.

"It doesn't really happen that often. Usually you can tell when a tile is starting to go," Mariano said. "Once it's up there's a possibility that (asbestos) may be disturbed."

The tile can either be encapsulated or removed.

"It's pretty much everywhere," Mariano said. "The old stuff, anything over 20 years old, can have asbestos in it."

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