LSA sophomore Karlek Johnson thought there was no asbestos in Mary Markley Residence Hall at the beginning of the school year.

Residence hall staff told him and other students that their hall was free of harmful substances including asbestos, Johnson said. That’s why he was irritated last week when hall staff sent Markley residents an e-mail that said asbestos had been found in the building.

Johnson and several other students saw a bin outside the dorm that said it contained asbestos last semester. They e-mailed Markley staff to find out whether the asbestos came from the residence hall.

Damian Waite, Markley resident director, sent an e-mail to students living on the first floor of Markley’s Little House, where Johnson lives, last Sunday. It said the University’s Occupational Safety and Environmental Health department found a small amount of asbestos in ceiling tiles while renovating the building, but the level was “well below” the threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency for being considered dangerous.

Johnson said he suspects that University Housing officials might have been trying to cover up the existence of asbestos in the building. He said it seems suspicious that the University only admitted that Markley contained asbestos after students found the bin and began to complain.

“They said there was nothing, but then changed their minds when we found out,” Johnson said.

Diane Brown, spokeswoman for University Facilities and Operations, said the accusations of the University trying to hide information concerning asbestos were “alarmist” and made “without having a knowledge base of information.”

“Most University buildings will have asbestos,” Brown said. “That’s a matter of fact. Everyone knows it. There’s no cover-up.”

Brown said maintenance staff are removing parts of the ceiling to prepare for construction over the summer.

“It has nothing to do with any asbestos issues,” she said.

The location of the asbestos in Markley posed a minimal threat to students, said Public Health Prof. David Garabrant, an asbestos specialist.

“The issue is not whether there’s asbestos in the ceiling tiles,” Garabrant said. “The issue is whether anyone is breathing asbestos in, and that’s typically not the case with a ceiling tile.”

Brown said the asbestos in the ceiling tiles wasn’t a direct threat to students because only asbestos dust is harmful.

“If ceiling tiles are left alone and untouched, there is no potential harm to the occupants,” Brown said.

Johnson said he isn’t that worried about the health risks of asbestos. Rather, he’s concerned that Markley residents didn’t know about the asbestos until now.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to kill us or anything. The main thing that bothers most of us is that they originally denied it.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.