The Occupational Safety and Health Program (OSH) has uncovered asbestos contained within a fireproofing spray in a Denver VA Medical Center building’s stairwell and overhead spaces. According to spokesman Daniel W. Warvi of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, testing by an industrial hygienist verified the hazardous material after construction crews were checking the roof for leaks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health performed a second inspection, resulting in the hospital’s need to submit a plan to remove the discovered asbestos.
“The VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHSC) goal is to provide a safe and healthful work environment for our veterans and our employees, and to be forthright with all who entrust us for their health care,” said Acting Medical Center Director Carolyn Adams.
Although many say no amount of asbestos is safe, the ECHSC says this does not pose a health risk for its employees or its veteran patients. Plus, it’s not uncommon for asbestos to be contained in many buildings due to its fire-resistant properties and ability to withstand much corrosion. But most do agree that when released into the air, the fibers can be inhaled and lead to a variety of complications, including the fatal mesothelioma cancer.
Coincidentally, of all the individuals in the U.S. whom have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, the veteran population has been most affected usually because of their military service. Asbestos was used in hundreds of military applications, particularly from WWII to the Vietnam War, so exposure was unavoidable for many.
Navy vets are at the greatest risk for developing the cancer as asbestos was widely used in naval ships and shipyards. In fact, about 4.3 million American worked in shipyards during WWII. This included boiler rooms, engine rooms, galleys and sleeping quarters, where they were susceptible to inhaling the fibers. Even military-base secretaries and the ship-builders’ loved ones have developed mesothelioma from secondhand exposure.
“Our on-site Safety Manager has already taken aggressive actions to inform employees about the presence of asbestos-containing material in the areas detected,” said Adams. “This includes a personal briefing by the Safety Manager on the labels that are being placed in their work areas, past asbestos abatement projects, and current areas that asbestos remains in the building. They were also provided the approved OSHA asbestos facts sheet for individual reference.”
Moving forward, OSH staff will continue to conduct surveys and routinely inspect the known asbestos to ensure it’s not tampered with or becomes airborne.