Cheyenne, Wyoming—State officials have announced that anyone who was on-site at a demolition project, and even those in the surrounding community, at the University of Wyoming, may have been put at risk for developing the deadly cancer mesothelioma after improper handling of asbestos.
The demolition, which is taking place at the Bureau of Mines Building on the main campus in Laramie, failed to conform to asbestos regulations on several counts. There was no inspection for asbestos prior to the demolition; the university failed to provide notification of the asbestos hazard. Additionally, workers were not properly trained in asbestos abatement, and it was not properly handed or disposed of. Asbestos, which was commonly used throughout the mid-20th Century as a construction and insulation material, has since been proven to be a dangerous, and even deadly, carcinogen.
Particularly when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed – as they would be during a demolition project, naturally – the microscopic asbestos particulate can become airborne and be inhaled. If this particulate is inhaled into the body, it can cause irregular cell development which eventually leads to mesothelioma, a rare and severe cancer. Mesothelioma, which affects a membrane which lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs, may take up to 50 years to become symptomatic, so it may be difficult to know if anyone on the university campus has contracted the cancer for quite some time. Mesothelioma, which is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 new patients each year, is currently considered incurable. A violation notice was issued on September 28 by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, several days after the university reported the incident. According to the notice, the asbestos containing materials were “scattered all over the outside of the building where the public could be exposed.” Officials from the both the department and the university have planned a meeting to discuss the asbestos issue.