The first phase of an ongoing project to replace old roofing panels containing asbestos fibers from Stony Brook University’s Chemistry Building was completed in the summer of 2014. The next phase is currently on hold and is waiting to be scheduled, according to Stony Brook University officials.
While the asphaltic materials being replaced in the Chemistry building’s roof do contain asbestos, they do not pose any threat to those working or spending time inside the building, according to Kevin Tumulty, Manager of Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Services of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
“There was no risk or health issues associated with this project. All roofing removal was planned and performed properly,” Tumulty said.
According to Tumulty, the asbestos, a term used for a group of six naturally occurring minerals that can be broken down into thin fibers, is non-friable, meaning the material is unlikely to release any fibers into the air.
When asbestos-containing material is considered non-friable, it is generally less hazardous because it will not release fibers into the air, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance’s website.
Asbestos is not dangerous unless the material in which it is contained is damaged and able to release asbestos fibers into the air. The danger is when the fibers remain in the air and are breathed in, which is not the case for the Chemistry Building’s roofing project.
In this state, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity; or asbestosis, a scarring of the lung by the fibers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Chemistry Building, built in 1973, was constructed at a time when asbestos was widely believed to be “miracle fiber,” as Stony Brook’s website on Asbestos Management called it. According to the website, asbestos can be found in an estimated 80 percent of all buildings built before 1981.
Asbestos was widely used throughout the 20th century in materials relating to construction due to its “resistance to water, durability and its tensile strength,” according to Tumulty.
The Chemistry Building roofing project has been in the planning stages since 2013, according to construction report by Senior Vice President for Administration, Barbara Chernow.
The planning stages of the project consisted of an inspection and testing of all materials being used in the re-roofing, selection of qualified contractors and qualified third party project monitors for oversight to verify all procedures were being followed, according to Tumulty.
The aim for Stony Brook’s Environmental Health and Safety Department was to “establish a plan and design for the removal and replacement of the roof that complies with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and NY State rules, regulations and codes,” Tumulty said.
While on hold for the moment, when the next phase is scheduled, Stony Brook Environment Health and Safety will post updated information about the project throughout the Chemistry Building, according to Tumulty.
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