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Onward State: Asbestos Complicates Penn State's Campus Construction

by on May 17, 2012 12:00 PM

Summer at Penn State is a season for many things, from making up the credits you late dropped to townies reclaiming their glory in downtown State College.

However, aside from the creeping warm temperatures and Starbucks closing ridiculously early, the summer in Happy Valley also is the season for renovation and construction projects for the Office of Physical Plant.

Since this university has been around before the abolition of slavery, bringing our campus infrastructure into modern times comes with impediments.

In the case of the Willard building renovation project that is slated to begin this summer, asbestos in the walls, ceilings, and flooring are causing university workers to take extra steps to ensure the safety of not only OPP workers, but the students and faculty that frequent the on-campus building.

According to Penn State’s Environmental Health and Safety website, the building material contains asbestos — a known carcinogen responsible for lung cancer and those annoying day-time TV commercials about Mesothelioma lawyers — which still is present in almost 60 on-campus buildings.

The hazardous material was a staple construction material for its insulating, noise-proofing, and fire-proofing qualities from the 1940s to the 1980s, when a large number of Penn State buildings were remodeled and constructed.

Asbestos is contained in thermal insulation, piping, ceiling tiles, floor tiles and soapstone lab workstations in buildings varying from residence halls like Sproul and Tener to educational spaces like Osmond lab and Kern building.

Even the Pattee Library and Rec Hall are known locations for asbestos.

But don’t start compiling a class-action lawsuit just yet. If there is anyone who knows how to properly deal with a huge issue where a lot of people’s health and reputations are at stake, it’s Penn State (no, for real this time).

When scheduled construction projects are undertaken in one of the buildings known to house asbestos, EHS works closely with EPA, DEP and various other regulators to ensure the removal of the hazardous material is done responsibly.

Tactics range from vacuum sealing work locations to contracting asbestos specialists to appoint an “industrial hygienist” to each project, ensuring all proper procedures are taken in the name of safety. And according to University Relations, asbestos is only dangerous to human health when one is exposed to it in airborne form.

So no, you don’t have Mesothelioma. Yet.

This post was originally published by the staff at Onward State. Follow Onward State on Twitter @OnwardState.
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