Testing in Firestone shows no elevated asbestos levels

Extensive testing has found no elevated levels of asbestos in Firestone Library, where a small amount of debris containing asbestos was found in a B level office area last week.

The debris was found to contain a small amount of asbestos, but air sample tests indicated that the area was safe for occupancy. As a precaution, the area was thoroughly cleaned by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, and since then additional tests by an independent consultant of air samples in that area and other locations in the library have shown no airborne asbestos.

An independent outside firm is continuing to conduct air sampling throughout the library, while a second independent firm is reviewing the air sampling results.

The source of the debris was ductwork that was disturbed by ongoing renovation work on the floor above the office area. In 1996, when insulation containing asbestos in the library’s ductwork was found to have come loose, the insulation was removed and the ductwork was cleaned and inspected. The air inside the ductwork was tested and found safe when the work was completed. Small amounts of debris may have remained stuck in crevices and corners, and it appears that movement of the ducts during the current renovation may have dislodged small amounts of debris along with dust that typically collects over time, according to the University's Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

For the past several years, the University has conducted air sampling in different areas of the library as part of routine testing by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety or in conjunction with asbestos abatement projects. Air sample tests are the best way to determine if an asbestos hazard exists, and results from years of air sample tests in different parts of the library indicate no increased risk of asbestos-related disease. None of the samples tested have indicated elevated levels of asbestos.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established a workplace permissible exposure for asbestos of 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air, averaged over eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. However, the clearance limit required for reoccupancy after an abatement is much more conservative (0.01 f/cc), and the University has chosen to use this significantly more stringent standard as its occupancy limit.

During the ongoing renovations at Firestone all work that involves moving or cutting ductwork will be evaluated by the project team and, as required, handled by contractors who specialize in asbestos abatement. The contractors' work will be monitored by independent assessors. As is the case with all abatement work, the work area will be closed, and ducts in the area will be enclosed and separated from other areas. Air sample testing will continue throughout the duration of the project.

Staff in the office area where the debris was found were informed about the incident last week. Library staff have received updates via email and during a regularly scheduled meeting to provide information about the ongoing renovations.

University employees who would like to discuss any concerns they may have with a medical professional are encouraged to make an appointment with Employee Health Services at McCosh Health Center by calling 609-258-5035. Anyone with other questions or concerns can contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at 609-258-5294.