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Asbestos Exposure at Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private research university in Nashville, Tennessee that was founded in 1873. Many of its buildings were constructed in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, this means they likely contain asbestos – a dangerous cancer-causing mineral that has been connected to deadly diseases, including mesothelioma.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease related to exposure to asbestos after spending time at Vanderbilt University, you may have grounds to file a claim against the school in pursuit of financial compensation. Discuss the possibility of a lawsuit with an attorney when you contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP. Our attorneys are committed to seeking justice for victims of asbestos exposure on college campuses.

What Is Asbestos? Why Is it Dangerous?

Asbestos is a group of six silicate minerals. Every type of asbestos has been confirmed as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, meaning exposure to asbestos can cause cancer. Specifically, asbestos is linked to mesothelioma – cancer of the protective tissue that lines many of the organs (the mesothelium). Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer with no known cure. Currently, the estimated life expectancy of a patient who is diagnosed with mesothelioma is 12 to 21 months, with treatment.

Asbestos can cause cancer by getting lodged in the internal tissues of the body, such as the mesothelium. Asbestos will get stuck in a victim’s tissues for many years (decades, in most cases). Over time, the asbestos fibers can cause irritation, inflammation and scar tissue in the affected area. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including the development of cancerous tumors.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, responsible for 82.1 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses from 1999 to 2018 (source: the CDC). In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos can also cause lung cancer, laryngeal cancer and other types of cancer in different parts of the body. Finally, asbestos exposure can lead to pleural plaques or pleural thickening – two conditions that can permanently impact lung function.

Asbestos in University Buildings

Before the health risks of asbestos were known, this mineral was a popular manufacturing ingredient. It was used in a wide variety of products, including building and construction materials. These asbestos-containing materials were then used to construct thousands of schools, colleges and universities throughout the country, including some of those at Vanderbilt. This means that today, these schools still contain dangerous amounts of asbestos.

In 1984, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study based on a sample of 2,600 public and private schools in the United States. The EPA concluded from its research that around 35,000 schools were likely to contain asbestos. This put approximately 15 million students and 1.4 million staff members at risk of asbestos exposure. Although this study was conducted almost 40 years ago, it is the last time the government quantified asbestos exposure in the country’s schools.

Between Vanderbilt University’s main campus in Nashville and its Peabody campus, it possesses a total of 233 buildings. Any building or structure that was built prior to the 1990s could potentially contain asbestos. It is the University’s legal responsibility to take steps to protect its students and employees from dangerous exposure to asbestos. If it negligently fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible for related illnesses and deaths.

Common Products That Contain Asbestos

Asbestos was relied on heavily for the production of building and construction materials due to its natural ability to resist heat and corrosion. This means that many buildings constructed prior to the government ban on asbestos still contain materials with this dangerous mineral.

Examples of products in schools that may contain asbestos include:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Spray-on insulation
  • “Popcorn” ceiling
  • Pipe insulation
  • Paper products
  • Cement and mortar products
  • Furnace and boiler coatings
  • HVAC equipment
  • Roofing shingles
  • Wallboards
  • Drywall
  • Chalkboards
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Adhesives

Any of these products that have been present at Vanderbilt University since before the 1990s could potentially contain asbestos. If left undisturbed, they may not pose a health risk to students or staff. However, poor building maintenance, damage, renovations or construction projects could send dangerous asbestos dust into the air.

What Actions Has Vanderbilt Taken to Prevent Exposure to Asbestos?

Vanderbilt and other universities have a legal obligation to protect students and faculty from exposure to asbestos. Like many universities, Vanderbilt has enacted policies to help prevent asbestos exposure on its campuses. This includes a Medical Center Asbestos Testing and Abatement Policy, which establishes guidelines for the safe management and removal of asbestos in building materials during construction, renovation and repair activities. Vanderbilt also addresses asbestos in its Architectural and Engineering Standards to ban any asbestos-containing materials in future projects.

Taking Legal Action for Asbestos Exposure at Vanderbilt University

If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos at Vanderbilt University as a student or staff member, you have rights. You may be able to file a lawsuit against Vanderbilt, a product manufacturer or another party for causing your illness. You or your lawyer will need to prove the defendant was negligent, or failed to exercise ordinary care. If Vanderbilt or another defendant was negligent in keeping you safe from asbestos, that party may be financially responsible for your medical condition.

Your legal options after being diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness may include:

  • A personal injury lawsuit
  • A wrongful death lawsuit
  • An insurance settlement
  • A workers’ compensation claim
  • An asbestos trust fund claim

An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and choose the correct option for you. Then, during the claims process, your lawyer can negotiate for fair financial compensation on your behalf. If necessary, your attorney can take your case to trial. A successful claim or lawsuit could end in financial compensation for your past and future health care costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more.

Contact an Asbestos Attorney Today

It is normal to feel overwhelmed after being diagnosed with an illness associated with exposure to asbestos. When you reach out to an attorney, he or she can answer your questions and connect you to vital resources. You can enjoy greater peace of mind and the time to focus on the future and recovery while your lawyer handles legal tasks for you.

If you believe you have grounds for a claim against Vanderbilt University for exposing you to asbestos, contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a free case consultation. Call (866) 871-7971 today.