Asbestos maintained in almost 50 CSULB buildings
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 01:10
Nearly 50 of Cal State Long Beach’s buildings contain the cancer-causing mineral, asbestos, but the environmental health and safety department (EHS) said students and faculty should not be concerned.
When it comes to dealing with the asbestos on campus, the EHS often resorts to a practice known as “manage in place.”
“You have actually a far lower chance of exposing people to asbestos by leaving it alone and keeping it in good shape,” David Beadle, director of the EHS and certified asbestos consultant, said.
The Residential Learning College and University Student Union are included among the nearly 50 buildings that are fitted with asbestos containing materials (ACM), according to an asbestos survey performed by the department.
But that number is not unusual, Beadle said, mainly due to the age of the buildings.
“At the time they were making some of our buildings, which was around the 1940s and 1950s, the use of asbestos was ubiquitous,” Beadle said. “It was thought to be a very good building material before they found out it had health issues.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of long thin fibers that can become airborne when disturbed. Inhaling asbestos can lead to serious health conditions, such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, according to the National Library of Medicine.
In the buildings around campus, white asbestos, also known as Chrysotile, can be found in some insulation materials, floor tiles, glues and plaster used to fill in the seams of drywall, Beadle said.
Beadle said a variety of practices are used to control asbestos around campus. Some of these methods include wrapping pipe insulation in a canvas jacket, sealing floor tiles annually with a coat of wax and covering wall plaster with “6, 8, 10, 12 layers” of latex or oil based paint, Beadle said.
“When it is maintained well … [asbestos] can stay in place without degradation for decades until you decide to demolish the building,” he said.
Furthermore, the ACM used on campus is non-friable, meaning it cannot be reduced to smaller pieces without great effort, Beadle said, so it is not a danger to students or faculty who occupy the buildings.
Heidi Burkey, coordinator of the health resource center, said the danger of developing negative health risks from exposure to asbestos fibers is usually greater for people who work with it.
“When there are health problems they are usually due to occupational exposures, like mechanics or contractors,” Burkey said. “People who are in buildings where asbestos is used in the building materials are normally not affected.”
However, the spread of asbestos fibers is still a concern to the EHS. That reason, facilities maintenance employees, custodians, and construction inspectors are all given 2-hour long asbestos awareness training.
“We encourage them to be cautious,” Beadle said. “Like, don’t put a ladder against the pipe and crush the insulation [when changing light bulbs.] That’s the message we’re sending.”
Employees are also trained to alert EHS when they suspect damaged materials contain asbestos.
While “manage in place” is EHS’s preferred practice, the EHS hires third party contractors to remove ACM when necessary or possible.
“’Manage in place’ is a primary management technique,” Beadle said. “So we keep it there but we keep it in good shape, unless we are going to do a remodel or renovation and then at that time we would take it out.”
Click here to see a full list of buildings containing asbestos.