Asbestos Removal Continues at Reitz Union

Video: Aaron Sortal, Brianna Davis, Haleigh Richards, Kylie Widseth, Jared Cohen, Kayla Ziadie
Story: Kim Brenneisen, Kristen Love, Lindsey Tague
Photos: Haleigh Richards

UF Union asbestos 1 Construction of the Reitz Union is currently expected to be completed by August 2015, but many students do not understand some of the real reasons behind the renovations.

The removal of asbestos, a mineral fiber that is commonly found in various building materials and a recently discovered carcinogen, is one of the underlying factors of renovation. Many students did not realize this was an aspect of the “Make it Reitz” project.

“I would have thought they (UF) should have told us,” said student Margarita Hernandez, a junior who commonly goes to the Reitz food court for lunch. “If they are doing construction, they should let us know that there could be harmful things in here.”

The “Make it Reitz” project outlines the expansion of the building and most aspects of what will be included in the reconstruction. After completion, the University of Florida expects it to be the largest student union in the United States.  The total project is estimated to be about $75 million. The funding for this project comes from a variety of sources including student fees, and other bonds and loans. The Reitz Union will add on an additional 100,000 square feet of space to the original 50,000 square feet of the building.

UF Union asbestos 2Before known health risks, asbestos was used as an insulator. It had good fire protection qualities, and it also protected against corrosion. It was originally installed in various buildings throughout the campus, such as the football stadium, in the 1950s.

There are four serious diseases associated with long-term exposure to asbestos. The most commonly known disease is mesothelioma, a rare cancer that mainly targets the lining of the lungs. Other known diseases are asbestosis and lung cancer.

Over a long period of time, the tiny fibers build up in the lungs and are not able to be released. Because of this, the university has been undergoing asbestos abatement, removal of the mineral, each time an older building is renovated or expanded. The abatement team and various construction workers urge students and visitors of the Reitz Union not to worry because the problem is under control.

For more information on the Student Reitz Union, visit: www.makeitreitz.com

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