Salem, Ore. – Parents, children, and other residents of Salem, Oregon will be able to breathe a little easier in a few months, after the Salem Public Library undergoes the final stages of its scheduled asbestos abatement. In May, the city council approved $165,000 in funds to be used for the removal of the harmful materials instead of using them for a lighting upgrade at the library.
In addition to removing the asbestos materials from the ceiling, the library’s carpet will also be replaced, to ensure any material that may have become contaminated with the asbestos is eradicated completely. Asbestos is a mineral material that can lead to the deadly cancer mesothelioma, which has officials worried about the safety of patrons and employees. “What we have is a hazard,” said Roger Heusser, president of Friends of the Salem Library. “We have so many people going through there and people working in those areas, so I had concerns. It is very good that the city plans to improve the infrastructure in those areas.” Asbestos, a known carcinogen, can have deadly effects on those who have been exposed to the material for a long period of time. When asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs—which can range from ceiling and floor tiles to drywall, joint compound and fireproof curtains—break down or deteriorate, asbestos fibers can be released into the air.
Once breathed in, asbestos fibers are unable to be expelled by the body, and remain in the lungs and organs for decades, eventually leading to mesothelioma. Sufferers of mesothelioma are often older, as the cancer remains latent for decades and takes years to develop. It is an aggressive cancer, progressing very fast and unknowingly, until it is too late. More than 3,000 people each year are diagnosed with the cancer. Asbestos-containing building materials were used in the initial construction of the library in 1971, when the use of asbestos was at its peak in the United States. The renovation is slated to begin in early January; upper floors of the library will remain open to the public during this time.