As students stroll around the campus of Texas State University in Austin this summer, they’ll see men at work in Elliott Hall Building A. Their task is to remove the asbestos-containing tile from the building, making it safer for students, staff, and faculty.
While university facilities personnel admit that there’s asbestos in many of the buildings on campus – especially since it was a common building material prior to about 1980 – they note that the presence of the material doesn’t necessarily mean students are being exposed to anything harmful. However, some students disagree.
In an article in the student newspaper, the University Star, the author interviews a former Texas State student who once lived in Elliott Hall, the dormitory now undergoing asbestos abatement. Katie Eskridge says she was a freshman when she resided in that dorm and noted that she was ill the entire time she lived in there.
“My parents moved me in and said something had to be wrong,” Eskridge stressed. She noted that she was diagnosed with bronchitis for the first time in her life while living in Elliott Hall and had to be prescribed an inhaler to alleviate her debilitating respiratory symptoms. When Eskridge moved out of Elliott Hall to a different campus dormitory, her major health problems disappeared and she began to make the correlation between the dorm and her breathing difficulties, she says.
Don Compton, Facilities Planning, Design and Construction associate director says that university officials are well aware that many of the buildings on campus include materials that contain asbestos, such as vinyl composition floor tiles. He added that asbestos testing began on campus some 10 to 15 years ago and that the university is slowly getting rid of any materials that contain the toxic mineral.
Many students think the process is taking too long. With the understanding that asbestos exposure can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other respiratory disorders, they worry about what they might encounter, especially since they are told to refrain from “disturbing the ceiling, walls, floor spaces or tiles within hallways, common areas and rooms, and insulation on pipes.”
Crompton says students should report any health problems they believe may be related to their living conditions to their hall staff for further investigation.