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HDRL finds asbestos in Central Campus apartments

There’s a small threat lying above residents of Central Campus.

Ceiling materials in Central apartments contain trace amount of asbestos, according to an email from Housing, Dining and Residence Life sent to residents Aug. 27. HDRL noted that the presence of asbestos is minimal and is common among most facilities constructed in the 1970s.

“Provided the ceiling is not intentionally disrupted or allowed to enter a state of disrepair, there is no danger,” Joe Gonzalez, associate dean for residence life, wrote in an email Wednesday.

HDRL has advised students to avoid disrupting apartment ceilings and report any needed repairs immediately in order to prevent any potential health risk.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in materials for building construction, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It is a known carcinogen, posing particular cancer risks when high concentrations are inhaled over long periods of time. In low concentrations and with minimal exposure, however, it poses a very low health risk.

Sophomore Chris Waybill said he and his roommate, sophomore Andrew Murray, were worried at first, but did not think it would be much of a problem in their apartment.

“I was worried that there was asbestos in the ceiling, but I guess as long as I’m not shooting anything at my ceiling, I should be fine,” Murray said. “It’s probably too expensive to fix that kind of problem in all of the apartments, so what can you do about it?”

Regarding asbestos management, Gonzalez said HDRL abates the materials when necessary but in this case has decided to leave the materials untouched due to the low health risk.

“Since there is no [health] risk if the ceilings are well maintained, we have pursued that direction,” he said. “It is a more common practice to leave asbestos in place in older structures and some argue more risk is caused by removing it if levels are extremely low­, which is the case on Central.”

Some students living on Central said that though they were initially concerned about the asbestos traces in ceilings, the notification that levels were low greatly minimized health fears.

“It says in the email that there’s minimal health risk, so I’m not too concerned,” said junior Alexandra Swain.

Although most students have not directly encountered the asbestos in their apartments, residents in InCube—a selective living group located on Central—noticed bubbly residue on a common room ceiling.

After reporting the incident to HDRL, the substance was identified as one releasing asbestos into the air, said InCube member Tito Bohrt, a junior.

HDRL tested the air for asbestos, and the levels were well below the legal limit, Bohrt said, adding that though levels were low, the common room was closed off and renovated.

“I think Duke learned a lot by having [to] renovate the commons,” Bohrt said. “We hoped that it would be faster and more efficient, since we haven’t had our common room for two weeks, but we aren’t worried about it.”

Aside from being frustrated about not having a common room, Bohrt noted that he was ultimately happy with Duke’s response.

“It was kind of annoying that they kicked us out, but we understand that it was to keep us healthy,” he said.

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