Founded in 1871 as the Wadsworth Normal and Training School, the State University of New York College at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo) became a state liberal arts college in 1948. SUNY Geneseo’s total enrollment is around 5,000 students and is considered to have one of the most rigorous academic programs in the SUNY system. The campus currently has over 100 buildings, including multiple dormitory complexes, apartment style student housing and state of the art academic buildings. Many of the dormitories on campus were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into numerous building materials. Asbestos-containing fireproofing, joint compound and pipe covering were used in the construction of these buildings. Workers who handled materials that contained asbestos or those who worked in the vicinity of others who did are at risk for developing an asbestos related disease, such as mesothelioma.
Fireproofing is a process by which a building's structural steel is coated with fire resistant insulation to protect it from high heat temperatures or damage from fire. Fireproof insulation was packaged in bags, which was then dumped into a machine, mixed with water, and sprayed onto the steel using a hose. The fireproof insulation used during the construction of buildings at SUNY Geneseo prior to the late 1970s contained asbestos. During both the fireproof mixing and application processes, large clouds of asbestos-containing dust were released into the air. Fireproofers and those who worked in the vicinity were likely exposed to asbestos. Additionally, tradesmen, such as pipefitters, electricians, ironworkers and carpenters routinely disturbed the fireproofing after it was installed in order to install pipes, conduits, wall framing, ventilation ducts and other building materials. Disturbing the insulation caused asbestos dust and fibers to become suspended in the air.
Asbestos-containing joint compound was also utilized in the construction of many buildings at SUNY Geneseo. Joint compound or mud, was used to fill in the seams between sheets of drywall. It was manufactured as either ready-mix (an application-ready product) or as dry mix (a powder that requires water to form a paste for application). When dry mix joint compound was prepared for use, the acts of pouring and mixing the powder with water released asbestos fibers into the air. After joint compound was applied, it was sanded down to a smooth surface for painting. Sanding joint compound also released asbestos dust and fibers into the air putting not only plasterers at risk for exposure, but others who also worked in the same vicinity.
Asbestos-containing pipe covering was applied and removed throughout various buildings on Geneseo’s campus. Pipe covering is used to protect water and steam pipes from damage, and maintain a steady temperature inside the pipe. Prior to the late 1970’s, asbestos was often used as a component in pipe covering because of the mineral’s inherent strength and ability to withstand high temperatures. Insulators used hand saws to cut pieces of pipe covering to a desired length, which emitted asbestos into the air and within the workspace.
Inhaling dust and particles from the application and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk of developing serious health problems. Even those who were not in direct contact with asbestos materials remain at risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many union and non-union laborers who worked on construction projects at SUNY Geneseo were employed by various contractors throughout Central and Western New York. If you or a loved one were once employed as a laborer at SUNY Geneseo and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.