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Antsy about asbestos: dorm residents don't need to worry

Hinton James, Morrison, Avery, Parker, Teague, Grimes and Manly residence halls all contain asbestos — but most of it isn’t fragile enough to be dangerous, officials say.

“The issue with asbestos is that the material is friable. This is a term that means fragile or easily crumbled,” said Mary Beth Koza, director of the Department of Environment, Health and Safety.

“Then there is a potential for health issues or exposure. Most of our surfaces are not friable surfaces. ... So if we find an area that could be questionable, EHS will be monitoring to verify if we have acceptable asbestos levels.”

Koza said if housing has any concerns, her department will address the problems. Regardless of housing reports, inspections are done twice a year in residence halls by accredited professionals.

She also said her department does asbestos-removal projects that are regulated and monitored all year long. Too much exposure to asbestos can cause lung disease and cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Students in buildings that contain asbestos are asked not to use tack, tape or glue to attach anything to walls, according to Koza’s department’s website. The department also advised not to scrape or damage walls, ceilings or pipes.

Associate Director of Housing Rick Bradley said he doesn’t think the presence of asbestos deters people from living in residence halls.

“I think it’s pretty commonly known that asbestos is in many buildings, so I don’t think that would be an influence,” he said.

Bradley said residents are made aware of asbestos in their dorms each year in resident adviser-led floor meetings.

“They have a letter that’s from the environmental health and safety director, and they just review that,” Bradley said.

Nina Vukicevic, a resident and floor representative in Morrison, said she knew of no such meeting. Her suitemates did not know about the asbestos in their building, either.

“I didn’t know about asbestos in Morrison,” Vukicevic said. “That’s good to know. I’ll bring it up in my next meeting.”

Emily Meggs, who lives in Grimes, said she doesn’t recall receiving information from housing about asbestos.

“I found out because my roommate told me, but more so it was like, I would hear people talking about it like, ‘There’s asbestos in the ceilings and the vents,’” she said. “I don’t know much about it, though.”

She said she’d like information about asbestos to be included in other housing information.

Koza said the asbestos in residence halls is currently harmless. Buildings are maintained so that materials don’t crumble and release harmful fibers into the air.

“None of the asbestos on campus is a health hazard, and I think that’s the most important point,” Koza said. “It is not something to panic about.”

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