August 17, 2019 | 84° F

There is still asbestos in the ceilings of many Rutgers dormitories

Photo by Ana Couto |

Many fully-inhabited dormitories and department buildings at Rutgers, including the Livingston Quads, Demarest Hall and Katzenbach Hall contain asbestos in their ceilings. Asbestos, now known to be a leading cause of lung cancer, was popularly used for insulation after World War II.

As many students are informed on move-in day, certain dormitory and department buildings at Rutgers University contain asbestos  — a material that, if disturbed, can cause lung cancer and numerous other health problems. 

These buildings include the Quads on Livingston campus, part of the Gibbons complex, Demarest Hall, Katzenbach Hall, Lippincott Hall, Nicholas Hall. 

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, formerly the location of the Italian Department, was also infested with asbestos but had it removed before they moved into the building, said Jo Ann Arnholt, director of fraternity and sorority affairs.

Neal Buccino, the assistant director of public relations for the University, said many of the buildings on campus that contain asbestos were constructed prior to 1980.

“The mere presence of asbestos is not hazardous, so long as the material is intact and undisturbed. The University provides notification letters to students residing in buildings with asbestos ceilings, to inform them about activities that must be avoided to prevent damage to the ceilings, and to request that they report any damage immediately in order to minimize potential exposure,” Buccino said in an email.

Buccino said the University has been notifying students of the presence of asbestos since the 1900s, and so far it has been successful in preventing damaging the ceilings, which contain asbestos.

It is safe to live in residence halls or apartments that have the presence of asbestos, according to the flyer handed out to students. Intact and undisturbed asbestos containing materials (ACM) do not pose a health risk. But, the flyer said if a student notices damage or disturbs any material that could contain asbestos within their living area, to notify the housing office immediately.

Buccino said Rutgers implemented an asbestos management program to “ensure the health and safety of the University community, minimize or prevent asbestos exposures, and, when necessary, remove asbestos products safely and effectively.”

Rutgers conducts visual inspections of materials, air sampling, training of staff, identification of asbestos prior to renovation or maintenance to monitor the asbestos, and all rooms containing it are inspected yearly prior to the fall semester, according to the flyer.

In order to maintain safe conditions in the buildings, the flyer instructs students living in asbestos infected dorms not to hang plants or other items from the ceiling, tack posters or materials to the ceiling, spray it with water or other substances, or bounce balls, books or any other objects off of the ceiling.

Asbestos has several health-related effects related to exposure, including asbestosis, which is a slow buildup of scar-like tissue in the lungs, according to

For most people who are affected by asbestosis, symptoms do not occur until 15 to 20 years after exposure.

About 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately half of the deaths from occupational cancer are thought to be caused by asbestos. It is also estimated that several thousand deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.

Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeDopico for more.

Chloe Dopico

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