Asbestos Discovery Halts University Renovations

Several renovation projects at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) are on hold following the discovery that some of the drywall and other building materials undergoing demolition contain asbestos.

Asbestos was often used in construction materials due to its heat-resistant and fireproof qualities. However, exposure to asbestos fibers can potentially lead to a number of serious health conditions such as malignant mesothelioma, a fatal cancer.

Unfortunately for the construction workers who came into contact with the deadly material at URMC’s former Blood and Bone Marrow Wing, the damage may have already been done.

According to Your News Now (YNN), construction workers on the URMC renovation project discovered the asbestos while tearing out interior drywall with saws and hammers in February and March. They noticed a strange material that coated the drywall joints and duct work — material that later tested positive for asbestos. Tests on similar building materials removed earlier and placed in dumpsters also came back positive for asbestos.

URMC stopped all construction involving interior drywall “indefinitely” after it received the test results.

The tests found asbestos in drywall, spackle, cement, and “fire stop” materials at URMC’s Blood and Bone Marrow Wing. According to asbestos survey data obtained by YNN, the material included chrysotile (white) and anthophyllite asbestos. Concentrations ranged from as little as two percent up to 12 percent.

State guidelines deem anything over one percent to be harmful and subject to removal under the provisions of NYS Code Rule 56.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the New York Department of Labor are now investigating whether the construction workers were exposed to airborne asbestos.

URMC says that the asbestos was disturbed and possibly became airborne during the renovation. The university claims that it relied on “historical records and assumptions” to locate and safely remove asbestos-containing materials in the building. But the drywall was not included on these rosters. While using asbestos in some construction materials is still legal in New York State, these materials are supposed to be identified prior to demolition.

The university has shut down any construction project where workers demolish drywall and it is re-testing sites where renovation work is planned. It claims that the public is safe from exposure because of the measures taken to protect common areas from dust and debris.

If you or a family member has suffered from the devastating effects of asbestos exposure, you have rights under asbestos law. Monetary compensation in the form of an asbestos lawsuit can help pay medical bills and other expenses. Call Sokolove Law for your free, no-obligation case evaluation today.