Mercer University’s Physical Plant department is planning to remove hazardous asbestos materials from on-campus buildings during the final weeks of the semester.
Newly constructed buildings pose little to no risk of containing asbestos, but older campus buildings pose a greater risk of containing asbestos and asbestos related materials.
Director of Mercer University’s Physical Plant Russell Vullo suggests that the materials have been in campus buildings for years.
“Asbestos was a common construction material and has been in the building since it was constructed,” Vullo said.
In the upcoming weeks Mercer University plans to complete a removal, or abatement, of Willet Science Center. Three Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units containing asbestos are due to be replaced during the summer term.
The process will take an estimated two weeks to complete, and will only be scheduled when the building is unoccupied. Renovations to other sites on campus containing the mineral fiber will be completed over time on an as needed basis.
Asbestos containing materials will be managed and protected until a removal date is scheduled.
The State of Georgia Environmental Protection Division has been notified on the abatement project, as required by law. The Physical Plant department takes aims to see that the asbestos abatement process meets federal and state codes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In order to ensure the safety of Mercer faculty and staff, Vullo urges that no one disturb asbestos containing material. This can include but is not limited to insulation, carpeting, adhesives and tiles.
“As long as the asbestos is not disturbed or made friable there is no health risk,” said Vullo.
Dean of the Mercer University School of Medicine Dr. William Bina III states that the health risks posed are often seen overtime. “Health risks occur when asbestos fibers are inhaled over a long time period and are not likely from a single exposure. Diseases occur late in life up to 25 years or more, and result in mesothelioma, lung cancer or pneumoconiosis (lung disease),” said Bina.
The signs and symptoms after exposure include chronic cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. All of which should “prompt a visit to one’s personal physician who can then initiate an investigation of the problem,” said Bina.
“The health effects of asbestos occur many years after exposure, usually decades,” said Associate Professor of Pathology for Mercer School of Medicine, Jerome Tift , M.D. Tift states that these symptoms usually manifest themselves as fibrosis of the lungs or abnormalities related to the lungs and chest wall.
Those who come in constant contact with the material should exercise extreme caution. “Special respiratory masks are available and should be used if asbestos fibers are present in the air. After exposure, absolutely one must stop smoking and receive routine screening examinations as determined by the personal physician,” said Bina.
The Mercer University Physical Plant adds that “In addition, Mercer uses licensed and certified abatement contractors to properly abate asbestos containing materials,” said Vullo.