Harvard undergrad housing gets remodeled with ‘asbestos everywhere’

Several of Harvard College’s decades-old undergraduate housing buildings are getting makeovers, but the buildings were created during a time when using asbestos was the the norm. Administrators claim it’s not a concern, even though studies have confirmed that there is no safe level of asbestos.


The Harvard Crimson, a daily college newspaper, reports that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Senior Director of Facilities Operations, Zachary M. Gingo, said asbestos was found not only in the housing, but also in some of the libraries and office buildings. Yet, he assured that the asbestos will not be dangerous unless it becomes friable, meaning dry and crumbled.

“Harvard takes every precaution to ensure that that does not happen on campus, employing specific maintenance protocols to avoid the damage or disturbance of potentially asbestos-containing materials,” Gingo wrote in an email.

Gingo didn’t specifically provide the names of the student housing buildings that had asbestos, but the student newspaper indicated that the buildings built before 1970 that haven’t had major renovations include:

  • Adams House
  • Eliot House
  • Kirkland House
  • Lowell House
  • Parts of the Pforzheimer House and Cabot House

Faculty Dean of Adams House, Sean Palfrey, agreed with Gingo, and said that as long as the asbestos was contained, there wouldn’t be health risks.

“There’s asbestos hidden away in all older buildings, but whenever found during work, the official team comes in and takes it out safely. That’s a fact of life, and as long as everyone is aware it could be there, the response is well-established.”

Is Asbestos Ever Safe?

While it’s true that chance of developing an asbestos-related illness is a lot slimmer when safety precautions are taken, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated there is no safe level of asbestos, period.

“There is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans.”

Anyone who works around asbestos needs to be professionally trained to contain asbestos successfully, not only for themselves, but for students, staff and anyone else who is in the vicinity. When asbestos fibers become airborne, they can travel in air, and people can inhale/ingest them without knowledge. Since the fibers are microscopic, odorless, and colorless, it’s impossible to see them with the naked eye.

Once asbestos has been inhaled or ingested, the body cannot dispel all of them. Over time, these fibers can attach themselves to the lining of major organs and cause scarring. The scarring can eventually lead to life-threatening illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and asbestosis.

For information about asbestos and the responsibility of school workers to keep student and staff informed of any abatement procedures or construction work involving asbestos, feel free to contact us at 800-793-4540.

Additional Help and Resources

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. 

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