Asbestos still a part of Queen’s campus

Materials are heavily integrated into buildings on campus

The JDUC demolition is completed and moving into construction. 
Photo: 

Asbestos is still a part of campus life—albeit unknowingly for most students.  

In a 2006 news story, The Journal profiled the presence of asbestos and the management strategy on campus. Their investigation found approximately 60 campus buildings contained asbestos, which is checked regularly. 

“Asbestos was essentially considered this miracle material because it had a wide variety of industrial uses. It was extremely widely used both as a building material and [in] many other industrial processes,” Christopher McLeod, associate professor, School of Population and Public Health at UBC, said in an interview with The Journal

Asbestos was commonly mixed in with drywall and other forms of insulation in the 20th century—peak usage came in post-war construction during the 60s and 70s. 

“Canada was also a fairly large asbestos producer, so there were mines in Quebec, not too far from Kingston. We produced a particular form that was used quite widely,” McLeod said. 

“It's banned in building material now, but you can still find it in building materials really up through to the 1980s, and maybe into the early 1990s.” 

McLeod said campuses like Queen’s and UBC have many buildings with asbestos construction materials. The use and export of asbestos has been banned in Canada with extremely limited exceptions since 2018.

Employees at asbestos mines worked without protection and researchers saw a correlated increase in asbestosis and higher rates of cancers such as mesothelioma, McLeod said.

“Industry fought very strongly to suppress the information around asbestos causing deaths, but eventually it was accepted.” 

Dan Langham, director Environmental Health and Safety, said Queen’s has a process to ensure asbestos is managed in line with legislation. 

“Queen’s has an asbestos management program that includes regular reviews of the locations where asbestos is present in a building to confirm the material is in good condition,” Langham said in a statement to The Journal

He said inspectors visually examine known or presumed asbestos-containing materials to investigate potential deterioration or damage.

“Any asbestos that is identified when projects are tendered must be dealt with if it is to be disturbed during the project,” Langham said.

“When it comes to larger projects, the expectation is that we try to remove as much, ideally all, asbestos that is present in our buildings during this time.” 

Speaking specifically to the JDUC redevelopment, Langham said it’s an example of a large-scale asbestos removal project. He said the JDUC site is currently under the care and control of a third-party contractor responsible for complying with all provincial laws, both for worker safety for people living in the general vicinity of the construction zone.

Langham said the current presence of asbestos on campus is not a risk to occupants if properly managed—a statement McLeod agrees with. 

“The general risk management approach is that you leave the asbestos alone. The challenge there is if someone starts to do something, and they don't know there’s asbestos.”

In-terms of communication strategies for asbestos in public settings, McLeod believes signage is important along with building awareness for younger, potentially unaware generations.

“​​Translating the risks of asbestos into other languages other than English, and communicating that throughout the community of workers, for whom English might be an additional language [is important],” McLeod said. 

“I think there's that equity and justice issue there related to the workers who may actually be doing some of the abatement.” 

Below is a list of all Queen’s buildings that currently have asbestos released by Queen’s, in accordance with the most current Ontario legislation. 

Queen's buildings monitored for asbestos presence

9 St Lawrence

162-164 Barrie Street – Grad Club

355 King/340 Union  – SMOL

Adelaide Hall

Agnes Etherington Art Centre

An Clachan

Ban Righ Hall

Botterell Hall

Bruce Wing

Carruthers Hall

Cataraqui Building

Central Heating Plant

Chown Hall

Clark Hall

Coastal Engineering

Craine Building

Donald Gordon

Douglas Library

Duncan McArthur

Dunning Hall

Dupuis Hall

Earl Hall – Biosciences

Ellis Hall

Etherington Hall

Film Studies

Fleming Hall – Jemmet Wing

Fleming Hall – Pollock Wing

Goodwin Hall

Gordon Brockington

Grant Hall

Harkness Hall

Harrison LeCaine Hall

Haynes Hall

Humphrey Hall

Jackson Hall

Jean Royce Hall 1

Jean Royce Hall 2

Jeffery Hall

John Deutsch University Centre

John Orr

Kathleen Ryan Hall

Kingston Hall

LaSalle Building

Leonard Hall

Louise D. Acton

MacDonald Hall

Macgillvray Brown Hall

Mackintosh Corry Hall

McLaughlin Hall

McNeill House

Miller Hall

Morris Hall

Nicol Hall

Old Medical Building

Ontario Hall

Richardson Laboratory

Richardson Memorial Stadium

Rideau Building

Robert Sutherland Hall

Stirling Hall

Summerhill

Theological Hall

Underground Parking Garage

University Club

Victoria Hall

Waldron Tower

Walter Light Hall

Watson Hall

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