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By Eric Lam

Experts say there’s no need to be alarmed about asbestos at Ryerson.

The university has complied with regulations to inspect and maintain asbestos. The school also performs air quality checks where asbestos is present on an annual basis.

All brittle asbestos insulation on campus has been sealed in latex or a similar material. It’s only when someone breaks it apart that it’s bad for your health.

“I feel very confident about (encased asbestos),” said Chris McNeill, facilities safety officer at the University of Guelph. “You’ll find that we each breathe between one and two million fibres per year.”

McNeill said asbestos, a natural compound, is only bad for you if inhaled in large amounts.

Ian Hamilton, Ryerson’s director of campus planning and facilities, agrees. “It shouldn’t impact the day-to-day activities,” he said.

Hamilton is also required to tell contractors where asbestos is located.

Meanwhile, other materials are coming under scrutiny.


Counterfeit Batteries: Health Canada recently warned consumers of the risks of purchasing counterfeit batteries. Since 2000, Health Canada received 86 complaints about batteries that “exploded, leaked, or overheated.” Even worse, fake batteries often contain mercury, which can damage your nervous system. For the student-on-a-budget, cheap batteries are hard to turn down, but try. You’ll thank us the next time your CD player doesn’t explode.

Three-Ring Binders: The most common material used to make the cheap plastic binders you buy at Business Depot, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), gets its flexibility from a wide range of chemicals known as phthalates. Unfortunately, those phthalates will eventually be released as a gas, which can be poisonous in sufficient amounts. It’s also why soft plastics will crack eventually. The most commonly-used phthalate, di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), has been shown to cause liver, kidney, and testicular damage in rodents and has been banned by the European Union, but not by the U.S. If you’ve got a pile of old binders lying around in a closet somewhere, it might be a good idea to air them out.

Particle Board: A cheap alternative to solid wood, made from sawdust or other small wood particles. If you’ve got any Ikea furniture, it’s probably particle board. Problem is the glue that holds everything together is formaldehyde, which is not good for you. While the formaldehyde is trapped inside the board, if you sand or otherwise try to cut it, the dust produced will be toxic.

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