CONTACT: STEVE PARROTT
5 Old Capitol
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-0552; fax (319) 335-0558
Release: March 1, 2000
Independent analysis of Mayflower air samples show building is safe
IOWA CITY, Iowa Four air samples from Mayflower Residence Hall have
been tested by an independent laboratory and showed no sign of asbestos contamination,
confirming that the building is safe for occupancy, University of Iowa officials
In all, a total of 18 air and dust samples have demonstrated that there
is no asbestos contamination in the UI residence hall. In addition to the
four samples tested by the independent lab, the UI collected and analyzed
five air samples and nine surface mini-vacuum samples. As an additional confirmatory
measure, officials from the UI Health Protection Office will collect another
set of surface mini-vacuum samples at random locations in Mayflower. The results
of those tests will be announced at a later date.
The findings come in the wake of a university announcement Monday that a
small amount of asbestos may have been released during a construction project
to install new fire alarms and a sprinkler system in Mayflower. With the results
of both the air and dust sample testing, university officials reaffirmed their
confidence that the building is safe for occupancy.
The air samples collected by workers from the UI Health Protection Office
were sent to the International Asbestos Testing Laboratories in Mt. Laurel,
N.J., which performed transmission electron microscopy analysis. No asbestos
was detected in the microscopic examination of the air samples. The New Jersey
firm has been accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation
Program, UI officials noted.
"We are happy to report that there is no cause for concern about asbestos
exposure at Mayflower," said Ann Rhodes, vice president of university
relations. "Its important for our students and staff to know that
the spray-on ceiling texture throughout the building does contain a small
amount of asbestos. As long as that textured material is not disturbed, there
is no health hazard.
"Now that we are aware of the presence of asbestos in the ceiling texture,
all future work that could disturb this material will be done using OSHA-approved
procedures for working with asbestos containing materials," Rhodes added.
The material containing the asbestos was sprayed on steel and concrete as
a decorative ceiling texture and a fire retardant in the late 1970s, when
Mayflower was originally built as a private apartment complex. That spray-on
product is only a fraction of an inch thick but it contains chrysotile asbestos
in a low concentration 2 to 5 percent along with styrofoam balls
and talc, all of which are embedded and encapsulated in a mixture of glue
Because the asbestos is embedded in paint, it is not easily dislodged. However,
the Mayflower fire protection project work involved the drilling of holes
through the material, which led UI officials to take the precaution of sampling
both air and dust in the building to determine whether the construction work
resulted in any contamination.
The $3.8 million fire protection upgrade project at Mayflower started in
October 1998 and continued through mid-January this year. It was not until
late last week that it was discovered that the spray-on material contained
asbestos. At that time officials from the UI Health Protection Office and
certified asbestos staff from the UI Facilities Services Group began collecting
air and dust samples.
At the same time, the UI notified both the Iowa Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) and the Iowa Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the
disturbance of the ceiling texture material. Students and staff were informed
Monday of the potential release and that the building remains safe for occupancy.