The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday June 8th

Berryhill Hall Formaldehyde May Be Unsafe

Berryhill Hall will close from March to May next year to fix problems with exhaust fans and duct work on the fifth and sixth floors.

Berryhill Hall, part of the School of Medicine, will be renovated in March because of a ventilation problem that has caused an excess concentration of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that is used in the building's anatomy labs as a preservative.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, inhalation of formaldehyde can result in eye, nose and throat irritation and respiratory symptoms.

Formaldehyde inhalation also can trigger attacks in people who suffer from asthma.

While formaldehyde can severely affect some, many do not show any reactions to the gas.

"Even in short-term exposure, the material is seen as an irritant to the eyes and nose," said Peter Reinhardt, director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Renovation of Berryhill was scheduled to take place in 2004 as part of the $499 million allocated to the University by the $3.1 billion bond package passed last year.

But officials said investigation of the ventilation warranted immediate attention.

"We had reports that ventilation in the upper floors was less than it should be in Berryhill," said Bob Marriott, assistant dean for the School of Medicine.

According to information received at last Thursday's Board of Governors meeting, the building's gross anatomy lab does not have an adequate system to expel hazardous fumes from formaldehyde.

Officials said the problem was discovered during a routine examination of campus building systems.

Engineer Donna Kramer, who originally evaluated the building for the 2004 renovation, was brought in to assess the conditions in Berryhill, Marriott said.

Kramer will design a plan to make necessary corrections, and the work will be contracted out, Marriott said.

The renovations are set to take place from March 11 to May 31, 2002. Officials said this time frame was chosen because no classes will be held in the affected area at that time.

Refurbishment will mainly focus on improving exhaust fans and duct work, officials said. The work will take place on the fifth and sixth floors and is expected to cost about $200,000, which will be covered by funds from the bond package.

In the meantime, filtration masks are available for people working in the anatomy labs.

Reinhardt also said officials are working to minimize the amount of time students and staff are exposed to the material by possibly rotating times people would work in the labs.

Moeser could not be reached for comment.

The University Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive