Over the course of the last four years, the University of South Carolina (USC) has paid over $175,000 in fines because of health and safety violations involving asbestos–including an incident where at least one student was potentially exposed to the cancer-causing substance.
A recent article in The State outlines USC’s checkered history with the dangerous material–one that is often found in building materials made and used prior to the late 1980s, when the link between asbestos and certain types of illness and lung cancer caused the government to ban its use.
These most recent fines come on the heels of work carried out at three student housing complexes, a medical school building, a building at the USC-Lancaster campus, as well as Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. According to records dug up by The State’s investigation, USC has been cited at least five times since 2008 by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
The dangers of asbestos–the brand name for a product that is actually a blend of six different minerals–has been well documented by both medical and environmental experts, since before the official 1989 ban by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in coordination with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, maintains an online hub for information about asbestos, related health risks, and who to contact to detect and remove asbestos properly.
This isn’t the first time the University has run across fines and other penalties for asbestos troubles. According to various state records and news reports, USC’s troubles began almost 10 years ago, with DHEC citations for work done on the Spartanburg campus.
What seems most troubling–aside from the enormous cost of these fines–is the tremendous amount of danger students and workers at USC faced, and how very unnecessary that risk truly is.