You might think that if a university spends $30 million over 40 years on asbestos abatement, the campus would be asbestos free. You’d be wrong.
Despite the University of Florida’s aggressive detection and removal efforts, there are at least 134 remaining asbestos sites on campus, according to a report in the Gainesville Sun. These are mostly small, out-of-reach areas in steam tunnels and basements. However, university officials admit that asbestos is also present in some floor tiles and lab tables.
Each of these locations is inspected annually for signs of danger by the university.
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials until the 1970s. Builders believed it to be safe as well as versatile, inexpensive, and fire-retardant. However, it is now known that exposure to asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive and incurable cancer. Asbestos is also associated with other serious lung diseases such as asbestosis.
In the 1980s the Florida Legislature appropriated $22 million to the state university system to abate asbestos on its campuses, accoding to the Gainesville Sun. Abatement can refer to the outright removal of asbestos, or to enclosing it to prevent exposure to the dangerous fibers.
Established in Gainesville in 1905, the University of Florida campus is home to several historic buildings, so the presence of asbestos in these older structures is not surprising.
Since its share of state funding ran out, the university has used part of its Environmental Health and Safety Department budget for asbestos testing and abatement. According to University of Florida’s industrial hygiene coordinator Tom Ladun, more than $7.6 million has been spent on abatement projects since 2005.
The Gainesville Sun writes that one recent example is the $182,000 the university spent to remove 9,050 square feet of asbestos-laden plaster coating from the Reitz Union building before a scheduled renovation this fall. While the university staff conducts annual facility checks to look for potentially dangerous asbestos (crumbling floor tiles or disintegrating insulation, for example), a major renovation or demolition triggers an outside inspection by a certified asbestos consultant.
“Here at the University of Florida, we don’t contain it — we made a conscious effort to remove it,” Curtis Reynolds, the University’s vice president of business affairs, told the Gainesville Sun. But the 134 smaller sites remain and must be monitored.
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Call Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.