Eugene, Oregon - The student union building at the University of Oregon in Eugene needs a lot of work, and students at the college are concerned that some of the problems inside the structure might be serious enough to cause health issues.
According to an article in the Daily Emerald, the student-run newspaper at the university, the Erb Memorial Union (EMU) building is in sad shape. “There are rooms full of buckets collecting water from leaks that can’t be fixed. Rust covers the valves containing the main water source for the building. Numerous pipes are being held together with duct tape,” wrote reporter Emily Schiola. In addition, she noted, lead-based paint was used on the walls and much of the vinyl tile in the building contains asbestos.
The article points out that the last complete Facility Condition Assessment was done at EMU a decade ago and it appears that little has been done since that time to upgrade the building. At the time of the assessment, statements were made as to concerns about asbestos including the fact that “the exposed building systems at the ceiling appear to be in generally good condition, but the fire-proofing material applied to the underside of the deck may contain asbestos.”
Asbestos-containing materials are safe as long as they remain undisturbed, but leaks and other problems inside EMU could compromise the asbestos and cause tiny fibers to be released into the air where students and staff are likely to inhale them. Asbestos exposure is dangerous and the inhalation of these fibers can eventually cause respiratory diseases to develop. People who are exposed to asbestos sometimes wind up with cancerous tumors and a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, a tough-to-fight cancer that carries with it a grim prognosis.
The article notes that renovation of the building is currently at a standstill and that the project has been a controversial subject on the Eugene campus. The Associated Students of the University of Oregon had to fight to demand a student vote on the topic but many current students are concerned about putting out money for something they’ll never use. In the meantime, concern continues as to whether or not it’s safe to inhabit the building, which has a variety of uses, including places to grab a meal or join in an activity.