The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 9th

Many dorms contain asbestos

Even after a $22-million renovation Morrison Residence Hall remains one of six dormitories on campus containing potentially cancerous materials.

Hinton James Avery Parker Morrison Ehringhaus and Craige residence halls all have asbestos-containing materials in their cinder block walls" which were used during their construction. Most were built in the 1960s.

Officials said the asbestos present no immediate health risk.

""It isn't a problem"" said Mary Beth Koza, director of environment, health and safety, adding that it just needs to be monitored and maintained.

Koza said officials always attempt to remove asbestos during renovations. But at Morrison, where renovations were finished in 2007, officials decided against removing the asbestos-containing materials.

Both Koza and Rick Bradley, assistant director for housing, said material was not removed during the renovations because it was beneath many layers of paint.

Bradley said it would take extreme action to cause the asbestos to become airborne, such as puncturing or cracking the wall paint.

Still, students were warned not to scrape the walls or tape posters to them using anything but 3M Scotch Removable Adhesive Putty.

Residents of the six dormitories were warned in an e-mail Thursday from Janet Phillips, asbestos coordinator for the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, that there is asbestos in the wall coatings beneath several layers of paint.

Asbestos is a small fiber once used to insulate and fire-proof buildings.

Breathing in high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer or other ailments, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also states that small amounts of asbestos exposure does not usually lead to health problems. But airborne fibers can be inhaled and are more likely to be hazardous.

Low levels of asbestos were also found in the floor tiles of Lewis and Stacy residence halls just before students moved in.

Morrison resident Cole Anderson said he doesn't think much about the asbestos.

I knew it was cancerous" but I figured if it was bad enough they wouldn't have us stay here" he said.

Anderson also said he feels the asbestos is not dangerous enough to be removed.

Bradley said Thursday's e-mail was intended to be mostly informational, not a warning about immediate health concerns.

As long as the paint is in good condition there's no potential health hazard"" Bradley said. The intent of this (e-mail) is to really calm people's fears.""

In the event of asbestos release"" Koza said her department is always available to take action.

""We can come over" we can do some training we can give you an asbestos 101 awareness class" Koza said.

Minor incidents, such as scrapes, would only require vacuuming the room and patching where the chip was created, Koza said.

But in a more serious case, she said a certified contractor professionally trained to remove the asbestos would have to be employed.

This is not a health risk to anyone that lives in these facilities"" Bradley said. The EHS folks would be quite active if it was the opposite of that. We would be required to do other things than notify people.""

 

Have a concern about asbestos?


Call UNC Environment" Health and Safety at 962-5507



Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.


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