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Asbestos Found in Harvard University Dorm

A recent news feature from The Harvard Crimson explains how asbestos was recently detected in an undergraduate dormitory known as Winthrop House and has caused at least one student to have to move out of his room and relocate to another dorm room.

warning-icon-45-1023139-mThe problems began last year when the student returned to his dorm room and found that a large piece of plaster form the ceiling above his closet had fallen and covered his clothing in dust during the process. This student contacted the residence hall staff, and a repair worker was dispatched to his room. When the worker arrived, he was concerned about asbestos and had a sample of the plaster tested at a materials lab. The lab confirmed the existence of asbestos.

Residence hall administrators said it is quite common for these businesses to contain asbestos, because they were built at time when asbestos was used in virtually every aspect of commercial construction, including as a binding agent in plaster. The asbestos would also serve as fireproofing and insulation, in addition to aiding the plaster in forming a strong chemical bond.

The school says that it found the presence of asbestos in the building in the past during repair work, but that students and staff are not being exposed to the deadly fibers, because the asbestos in not a form that is dangerous. They went on to say that, unless the asbestos was friable, it was not dangerous.

Friable asbestos is when the asbestos material has deteriorated to the point where it is capable of being crushed by a human hand. This means that it is very fragile, and there is a good chance that asbestos fibers will be released into the air, where potential victims could inhale them. However, when a piece of asbestos-laden material falls from the ceiling and leaves dust all over clothing in a closet, it would seem there is a decent chance of fibers being released into the air.

The university said that whenever asbestos is discovered, they use a certified asbestos abatement firm to perform an inspection and advise them on what to do. If asbestos abatement (removal) is required, the firm will then do the work after an asbestos abatement plan is filed and removal permits are obtained.

The student who was living in the room said he had to throw away most of his clothing, some of which had sentimental value, and had to move to another dorm room for a short period of time. He also said he was upset students were not warned about the presence of deadly asbestos in the dormitory building. The building is slated to be renovated next year, and residence hall officials said that all asbestos capable of being exposed during the process will be removed by professional asbestos abatement contractors prior to any renovations being done.

If you believe you were exposed to asbestos, it is important to make sure you keep or create a record of when or where you exposed, so your Boston mesothelioma injury lawyer will have a better idea of who manufactured the deadly material.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional resources:

Asbestos Found In House’s Building Materials, January 19, 2016, The Harvard Crimson, By Jalin P. Cunningham

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Mesothelioma Lawsuits for Shipyard Workers, July 30, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog