Asbestos in the Munnels: should you be worried?

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Asbestos health effects have been an issue in Canada since the 1870s when the first asbestos mine opened in Quebec—since then, removing asbestos from infested areas has been an uphill battle.

Asbestos Health Effects

In 2006, the World Health Organization called for an international ban on asbestos. They verified that asbestos could cause cancer, particularly of the lungs and ovaries, but also cancer of the larynx, stomach, pharynx, colorectum, etc. It also causes mesothelioma, an incurable, deadly cancer that coats the lining of your internal organs. Asbestos isn’t something you want to take in with your morning coffee.

Different types of asbestos exposure can determine the likelihood of experiencing its adverse health effects. If you’re a MUN student, you may already know of the asbestos lying dormant in the munnels and most other campus buildings. You may think, ‘if there were a real issue, someone would have said something by now,’ or ‘I’m sure there’s not enough asbestos to hurt me.’ However, asbestos inhalation is not as simple as you may think. Just one exposure can put you at risk of experiencing health problems. 

In truth, it’s common for older buildings in Canada to have a small concentration of asbestos in the air. It’s challenging to avoid exposure altogether. However, the effects will vary depending on the amount of asbestos in the air and the length of time you’re breathing it in.


Asbestos Rates at MUN

Every year, MUN releases a statement of the concentration of asbestos in the air. Here is the 2022 report on asbestos concentration in the MUN academic buildings, residence buildings and the munnels:

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Essentially, where the majority of buildings have a definite concentration of below .04 and asbestos presence is relatively minimal, the figure given for the munnels and certain parts of the mathematics building is closer to being critically unsafe.

The asbestos concentration won’t get any worse, but it hasn’t been getting much better. The 2022 report yields similar results to 2012, an entire decade ago.

Current Asbestos Elimination

There are a few areas where asbestos is currently undergoing extermination. This notice was posted recently:

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Asbestos notice in the Arts building

Abatement is also taking place for certain rooms in the Business building.

What’s Hindering the Removal?

While the health concerns surrounding asbestos at MUN should be a priority, the removal cost is a hefty one, and the university has other obligations. The last large purge of asbestos in 2017 cost the school $626,000. Furthermore, the munnels, academic buildings, and residences are in everyday use, so closing a large portion off for asbestos elimination may be impractical.

Students can find more information on the asbestos removal plan at MUN here:
Asbestos management | Environmental Health & Safety | Memorial University of Newfoundland

The Muse will report on the updates to follow.