Toronto University was taking steps to remove asbestos during major renovations when an asbestos leak forced them to close parts of its Medical Sciences building.

The asbestos removal project at the 50 year old building is part of a multi-million dollar project to improve the campus laboratories and Medical Science facilities. During removals, and despite protecting the area, asbestos leaked and forced the complete closure of affected areas. Air testing did show the areas to be safe but no risks were taken with the cancer causing fibres and extensive measures were taken to protect staff and students.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents teaching staff at the university asked for greater measures to be taken during renovations and assurance to be given to all on site that it is safe to work while renovations are taking place. The Students Union is also asking students to report any concerns.

Toronto University has said the Ministry of Labour has attended the site and not issued any further directives, however they have yet to confirm the site was clear of hazards. Vice President Scott Mabury explained the measures that were taken as the additional risk was identified and gave assurances that they had learned from the safety breaches and would apply that knowledge to the whole campus.

The leaks were caused by a worker drilling into an asbestos containing wall, an insufficiently sealed containment area and air pressure forcing dust from a service shaft whilst renovations were in progress.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is banned in 50 countries worldwide. It will be banned for new construction and renovations in Canada by 2018. Many Canadian firms are facing lawsuits concerning the illnesses and deaths caused by asbestos.

The case of the University of Toronto is a prime example of how dangerous asbestos can be, how difficult it can be to contain during renovations, and how important it is to remove asbestos using a professional and experienced remediation company. Though there were breaches Toronto University is learning from them, and importantly they were taking the steps to remove dangerous asbestos as part of their renovations.

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