Recently, announcements about the dangers of asbestos on television, radio and the Internet have increased—especially its links with mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer found in the linings of the lungs, abdomen and heart. Asbestos has often been linked with workplace environments such as shipyards, railroads and many remodeling and construction jobs. But this mineral fiber, a popular insulate and fire retardant, has impacted campus as well.
Recently, students may have begun to notice that the 4th floor or “attic” of Willard Hall is closed with a yellow sticker stating “Danger of Asbestos.” This room, usually full of students, stands empty because of the threat.
This is not the only place that asbestos has been found at K-State. Division of facilities supervisor Larry McCoy confirmed cases of asbestos prevalent in the ceilings of the K-State Student Union and the basement of Waters Hall to name a few.
This doesn’t come as a shock since many building materials such as insulation, ceiling tiles, roofing materials and shingles were built with the minerals that contain asbestos, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
The Union, in particular, has received more attention lately due to discussion of its remodel and potential expansion after research conducted to identify problems with the current building. After the discovery of the asbestos, Union employees were notified of its presence, but according to Jenni Jones, assistant director of greek affairs, employees were told, “it doesn’t pose a threat as long as the ceilings aren’t disturbed.”
She said there have been some restrictions on what the employees are allowed to do in the office because of the asbestos concern.
“I can’t have any alterations to my office so that way we don’t disturb it,” Jones said.
Their office has taken precautions such as not having walls on their offices that go all the way up to the ceiling.
“It is too expensive to do anything about it right now,” Jones said.
Even though Union employees were warned and have taken the necessary precautions, they are not the building’s only users.
Ben Brown, sophomore in agriculture economics who said he considers himself a frequent user of the Union, said he had no idea there was asbestos present.
“I probably visit at least once a day,” Brown said.
When asked if he had any concerns for his own or other students’ health, Brown said no.
“It’s not like we live there or sleep there. But I would be concerned if I worked in one of the offices and was breathing it everyday,” Brown said.
He also said that while he “isn’t blaming anyone,” something should be done to fix it.
Asbestos has been confirmed in multiple buildings throughout K-State, but so far there have been no confirmed cases of disease or cancer linked back to campus buildings. Currently, the only confirmed remodeling efforts to rid these buildings of asbestos have been the talks about the Union remodeling project.
Fortunately for K-State students, asbestos-containing products and building materials are perfectly safe as long as they are not damaged or disturbed.