In 2005, the University of Washington’s Occupational Health and Safety Office received an asbestos-related citation from the Washington Department of Labor. To settle the matter, the university agreed to clearly label all areas of the campus where a physical disturbance could potentially release asbestos fibers into the atmosphere.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, when disturbed, creates dust that can be inhaled and cause a variety of adverse health effects including mesothelioma cancer. Before the public became aware of the potential health issues, asbestos was added to numerous construction products for its resistance to fire, heat, friction, electrical, and chemical damage. Denis Sapiro, the manager of the UW Occupational Health and Safety Office confirmed that asbestos has been present on the campus for as long as it’s been used in the construction industry. Suspect asbestos materials across the UW campus include pipe insulation, wall insulation, floor tiles, spackling, fire doors, window putty, and outdoor siding among others.
The labeling effort, begun in 2008, involved adding “asbestos danger” stickers to the necessary locations in the over 300 UW buildings. Over this recent winter break, the effort reached residence halls which, despite a letter sent to their homes, left some students surprised to find the stickers in their dorms. Roy Smith, the university’s asbestos compliance analyst, wanted students to know that the sticker indicates that there is asbestos present, but it is not a toxic exposure hazard. The stickers serve as a reminder to report any damage to that area. He was adamant that the University of Washington’s Facility Services would swiftly respond to any immediate asbestos dangers. Despite the upfront nature of the university administration, some students are still upset, which you can read more about here.
Have you potentially been exposed to asbestos or diagnosed with mesothelioma? A mesothelioma lawyer may be able to help.