Before banned in many nations, asbestos had already been widely used in building construction. This includes homes, factories, offices, public buildings and schools, more or less all types of buildings. The health hazards of asbestos is now recognized in many nations, so one might think that we are safe from asbestos exposure in most countries, including being safe from exposure in buildings containing asbestos. This is unfortunately not true. If there is a ban, it only means that it is forbidden to use asbestos in construction of new buildings or products. In most nations it is not illegal for a product or building to contain asbestos, so naturally older buildings and products still contains asbestos. And the issue is that in many buildings the asbestos-containing materials are in bad shape, and occupants and owners of buildings are often unaware of this, thus spending substantial amount of time in asbestos-contaminated air.
Health authorities in most nations still align with the strategy that as long as the asbestos-containing materials are intact and non-friable, there is no need for asbestos abatement/removal. Thus, the state of asbestos in buildings are often kept under yearly survey, were building owners are required to frequently inspect any asbestos-containing material for damage. Abatement is done only if the materials are found to be damaged or deteriorated. Some nations have strict laws for keeping status records of asbestos-containing materials in buildings, but many do not. Not even nations who has enforced bans. Due to lack of surveys in those nations, it is very likely that a large number of buildings in those nations now contain deteriorated and damaged asbestos materials, with occupants and owners completely unaware of this very hazardous situation. They most likely breath asbestos-contaminated air unknowingly. This problem is common in any type of building, including homes, factories, public buildings, offices, schools and universities. So even though the hazard of asbestos is recognized nowadays, we are not yet safe from even significant exposure.
Asbestos University of Manitoba
A prime example of this situation is the buildings of University of Manitoba in Canada, where asbestos is found virtually everywhere. The University of Manitoba have an asbestos program, which means they do check for asbestos contamination problems. But, those attempts to keep the asbestos safe seem like a complete failure. Despite frequent asbestos abatements, the buildings are still full of damaged and friable asbestos. Patricia Martens, one of the university professors, is one of the first to die from mesothelioma. She died in 2015 and is one of the many unfortunate who was, and still are, exposed to asbestos in the university air during university services. Two other University of Manitoba professors, Dr. William Morgan and Dr. John Matthiasson, both from the Anthropology Department, were also diagnosed with the same cancer and have since died. She was exposed before the recognition of asbestos being hazardous, you might think. She certainly was, but the severe issue is that the asbestos problem causing contaminated air in the buildings , is still not remediated. Jayde Shaw, who has been employed in building maintenance for many years, reports that friable asbestos is still virtually everywhere in the buildings. This “asbestos university”, or “University of Mesothelioma” (as Jayde calls it), do not seem to recognize the ongoing problem, still exposing students, staff and even children (playcare centers at campus) to asbestos. How many will share the fate of Patricia? Only time will tell, due to the long latency between asbestos exposure and asbestos disease. Mesothelioma shows up 30-40 years after exposure, in average.
Jayde Shaw is one of the few having recognized the severity of this issue, and he has shot videos of areas with asbestos-containing materials during the course of his employment. The videos show asbestos clearly in very bad shape, all over the university. The problem is very widespread, and Jayde is one of the few to protest. In 2010, he was even temporarily suspended for being too vocal about the asbestos problems.
Asbestos in the ventilation system
Now in 2016, here is a recent video of his, documenting how asbestos is spread all over the university through the ventilation systems. The main ventilation rotor itself is insulated with raw asbestos. The shafts carrying the air are also insulated with asbestos, damaged in multiple places. It is hard to grasp that this contamination is not recognized, and that students, staff and children spend substantial amount of time in this deadly air.
Jayde walks you through damaged asbestos in another ventilation shaft, feeding air to multiple university departments, including a nearby playcare center.
Asbestos in the campus air – nothing has changed
In 2010, Jayde shot a series of videos of the problems back then, and it seems not much has been done since then.
Here Jayde shows an asbestos-contaminated basement area, with an exercise running track just nearby. Staff and children spend time there every day, breathing contaminated air. He then continues to show the ventilation contamination problem. As you saw above, this problem is still not remediated in 2016, six years later.
He continues to show a shocking amount of damaged and friable asbestos, making its way into the air stream of the university ventilation system. Asbestos debris is everywhere, and damaged asbestos is everywhere on pipe insulation, wall insulation and even the ventilation shaft insulation itself.
The tour continues and Jayde finishes with his own thoughts at 05:15, frustrated with the situation:
Hi there, how did you like my tour of campus? This was by no means all the asbestos on campus, but those clips do show some of the more pressing problems, where it is getting into the air stream.
I just don’t want to overwhelm you with how bad it is, or maybe I’m used to this lunacy and I have a need to overwhelm you. At any rate, thanks for just watching. Knowing that other people see what I see, takes some of the burden off me. Sorry if I some times come off as a bit of ranter, but just making those videos makes me really nervous. I mean, imagine getting in trouble for exposing a huge health hazard coverup.
I was dismissed for insubordination from the university because of this, and I lost my job for 1,5 years. Ultimately, the judge ruled a person cannot be terminated for telling people about safety hazards. My experience with the courts and the goverment tells me that everybody knows about the asbestos here, but no one wants to the one to speak up and possibly jeopardize Canadas asbestos exporting business.
I don’t believe the politicians really wants this to be happening, but no one knows what to do. And they let the University of Manitoba to handle it internally. “The foxes are guarding the hen house.” And I thought that the running track would get cleaned up…
The really funny thing is that when the parliament buildings in Ottawa get renovated, first the politicians are having the whole thing abated for asbestos, so they acknowledge it is deadly. But why don’t they do that for us [staff]? And the students here? When I call Workplace Health & Safety I’m told, “we have safe asbestos on campus”.
It is time to start treating people with more respect. Having a bunch of guys running around in environmental health and safety vests, means little when you actually see whats happening in the air stream here. When you actually KNOW. Our own bargaining unit, CAW, knows how bad it is. They published a booklet, “Pure white asbestos”, saying that “the University of Manitoba is a nightmare waiting to happen”.
It does not have to be a nightmare, all we have to do is wake up here!
Jayde Shaw is a hero for speaking up. He lost his job once in 2010 for attempting to expose the horrific asbestos conditions at the University of Manitoba. Now in 2016, nothing has changed. Why is this? One explanation is the fact that this University is located in Canada. Canada has not yet banned asbestos. It is still completely legal to use asbestos in Canada, and the canadian goverment is still reluctant to ban asbestos. Why? Asbestos has been big business in Canada for decades, and up until as recent as 2012, Canada exported asbestos in huge quantities to the third world. The shame is apparent and it is borderline homocide to having allowed this. Innocent people around the world will die from Canadian asbestos. And until taking any responsibility and proper action against existing asbestos hazards in buldings within Canadas own borders, asbestos will continue to kill not only in the third world, but also in Canada.
Jayde Shaw (youtube)
Canadian Occupational Safety – “Asbestos-related cancers a growing concern”
Canadian Association of University Teachers – Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin