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Asbestos Dust Found in Offices at Sonoma State University

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

May 08, 2013

Rohnert Park, California - A student publication at Sonoma State University reports that traces of deadly asbestos dust have been found in at least one building on the sprawling campus in Rohnert Park, California, prompting officials to advise faculty members not to disturb the dust lest they create a health hazard.

The article in the Sonoma State Star explains that friable asbestos was found in floor and ceiling tiles in Stevenson Hall, which houses the offices of the school’s Sociology Department. The hall was built in 1965 during an era in which building materials often contained asbestos. The material was used because of its exemplary fire-resistant qualities and because adding it to products such as cement increased the durability and life-span of those products and made them stronger. Unfortunately, it was later revealed that asbestos was a carcinogen, causing such cancers as mesothelioma, which most often attacks the lining of the lungs.

The situation at Sonoma State came to light after faculty members in Stevenson Hall contacted Craig Dawson, director of energy and environmental at the university, expressing their concern. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) was called in to investigate.

Since that time, emergency cleaning crews have been sent in to address the dust in the offices at Stevenson Hall, but faculty members say a lot of dust remains.

“In recent weeks, the university has applied a sealant to the floor tiles of some faculty offices…however, the university has not taken steps to replace ceiling tiles, since they are so extensive in this building,” said Noel Byrne, professor of sociology.

“[The university] notes that (unlike floor tiles) ceiling tiles are not disturbed by the day use of the building. Replacement would be very expensive. Some faculty believes that the university is placing faculty, students and staff at risk by not properly addressing this issue,” Byrne adds, noting that the process for confirming the extent of the asbestos contamination has taken weeks, prompting further concern about asbestos exposure.

“I want to know if my office is toxic. I have been in here for years, and am concerned for my own health,” said Peter Phillips, associate professor of sociology. “I hold the high levels of administration responsible for this, by having faculty members exposed to this for years.”

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