As of Monday, the building at Oxford University that houses the departments of zoology and experimental psychology will be closed for two years so that all threats of asbestos exposure may be eliminated.
The Oxford Times reports that the building, Tinbergen Building in South Parks Road, is one of the campus’ largest buildings and that this closure will displace roughly 750 staff and 900 students. As is to be expected, the announcement today that the building must be vacated for two years after Monday "has thrown a host of major research projects, planned lectures and events into disarray."
Oxford University pro-vice chancellor for planning and resources, Professor William James, told reporters that the university was taking this somewhat drastic approach to ensure the safety of all students, teachers, and staff who use the building. The University has stressed that they have found no evidence that any occupants of the building may have suffered asbestos exposure already, but that they will take whatever steps necessary to ensure this continues to be the case—including demolishing Tinbergen Building if they must.
Professor James said, "Asbestos is common in all buildings of this vintage and we have always known it has been in this building. For decades, the university has taken steps to either remove it where it is safe to do so or isolate it. What has changed is several pieces of work going on—necessary work, refurbishments and work on our heating systems—have brought to light pieces of asbestos inside things like ducts that need to be safely removed. Over the past year the number of pieces that have come to light have increased to the point where we are no longer confident that removal can be done if users remain. So we have concluded, with a heavy heart, that to do it most quickly will require a wholesale closure of the Tinbergen Building."
It appears that Oxford University has been monitoring the risk of asbestos exposure in Tinbergen Building for a number of years and has acted quickly once they realized the threat was higher than acceptable. While this is clearly the proper course of action, it is a struggle for many of the students and teachers who must now relocate to contain their shock and frustration. For others, though, this abrupt change has been an excuse to take a short break from rigorous studies and enjoy the company of fellow displaced researchers. One researcher formerly based in Tinbergen Building tweeted earlier today, "We just found out our Dept. building is shut down for 2 years from Monday. So we drank all the champagne.
BBC reports that in a formal statement, the university said, "We apologize to staff and students for the inconvenience that this unprecedented situation will cause, and we will do all we can to support them so that research and teaching can continue."
Asbestos is a common feature in many components of older buildings, including insulation, flooring, ceilings, plumbing, ductwork, and more. This mineral is now known to cause mesothelioma cancer and other severe conditions when inhaled or ingested, and asbestos exposure should be avoided at all costs. Individuals who have been exposed to asbestos without their knowledge or without proper protection have the right to demand compensation from any negligent parties. To learn more about asbestos exposure lawsuits, please contact us to schedule a free and confidential meeting with an experienced attorney.