Department of Facilities
West Classroom environmental safety FAQ
Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Auraria Higher Education Center were made aware of four employees diagnosed with three different types of cancer who worked in the same immediate office area in West Classroom.
How did the University respond?
Out of an abundance of caution, MSU Denver and AHEC contracted with two independent Certified Industrial Hygienist firms, CTL Thompson Inc. and ATC Group Services LLC, to conduct thorough and comprehensive environmental testing in the areas of concern. The tests screened for the presence of many potentially hazardous materials as determined by OSHA and EPA standards. These tests surpassed the standards currently set for state buildings.
What did the results indicate?
We are relieved to report that the investigation did not reveal a connection between the cancers identified in MSU Denver employees and the West Classroom building. Neither the results from firm one nor firm two indicated an alarming presence of contaminants. Based on visual observation, meter monitoring and analytical results, the environmental parameters were within the typical ranges for indoor air quality for an occupied office building and well below the applicable regulatory limits.
Separately, MSU Denver also shared information regarding the reported cancers with medical professionals who study patterns and prevalence of cancer in society. They’ve noted that 40% of Americans will have some form of cancer in their lifetimes: So, it is not unusual to find multiple cases of cancer in close proximity. They also noted that this doesn’t imply that the cancers share a common source or cause.
Is West Classroom safe?
The results of the latest tests, combined with prior data, give MSU Denver no reason to believe that the building – or any building on the Auraria Campus – is unsafe.
When did the results come back?
The University had the test results from both companies in hand on Aug. 8. MSU Denver and AHEC analyzed the results and shared what was learned with the University community when faculty returned to campus on Aug. 12. The town hall meeting was livestreamed, and a video of the meeting is available here. The University was prepared to take immediate action if the results were concerning.
What does the University plan to do with the information it collected from concerned people?
Thank you for sharing your concerns. We have read every email that was sent to us and will respond to each with the contact information for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which tracks occurrences of cancer in the state, looking for patterns or alarming clusters
With our investigation complete, any future feedback on Auraria Campus cancer concerns can be shared with the CDPHE, which maintains the state cancer registry. People who are concerned that their cancer is linked to an environmental exposure on campus can contact the toxicology hotline at 303-692-2606 or CDPHE_ToxCall@state.co.us.
Do you plan to do any further testing?
MSU Denver does not plan to do any further testing at this time.
Can you tell me where specifically this is?
The specific area of concern is not being identified to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Am I being exposed to asbestos?
No. Any known and/or suspected sources of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in the West Classroom building and across the Auraria Campus are currently maintained in a non-friable condition and are not capable of releasing asbestos fibers into the breathable atmosphere. Multiple Colorado state Certified Asbestos Building Inspectors (CABIs) have visually inspected both known and suspected sources of ACM in the West Classroom building. Any renovation or routine maintenance involving potential or confirmed ACM includes survey, current-condition reporting and, where applicable, abatement and air monitoring as defined by public health regulations. Surveys and abatements occur regularly across campus, per standard operating procedures, as is the nature of ACM management in any commercial, public or educational facility nationwide. Learn more about asbestos on this information sheet from AHEC.
I understand the Auraria Campus was built on a former industrial site. Does this pose any health concerns for those on campus?
We know that, historically, urban centers in the United States were often built on the remains of industrial sites. Thankfully, American know-how has allowed us to mitigate the risks associated with such environmental concerns. Parts of the Auraria Campus were formerly industrial. When the campus was created, checks and balances were instituted that remain in place today to assure the safety of the campus. The Auraria Higher Education Center maintains a site management plan for the campus environment, which follows all current regulations for facility maintenance, improvements and safety.
Who is paying for the testing?
AHEC and MSU Denver are coordinating with the state to cover costs. No individual departments are paying for the tests.
Is there someone I can speak to if I am feeling anxious or distressed as a result of this investigation?
Faculty and staff can always contact the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program (CESAP), which provides free and confidential support to any state employee in need. You can reach CSEAP directly at 303-866-4314 to schedule an appointment.
Current students have access to confidential support at no additional cost through the MSU Denver Counseling Center. You can reach out to the Counseling Center directly at 303-615-9988 to schedule an appointment. Likewise, after-hours mental health crisis support is always available to MSU Denver students by phone at 303-615-9911.
What should I do if I have further concerns about this?
Faculty and staff should contact their supervisor, chair or dean, or contact MSU Denver’s Office of Human Resources at 303-615-0009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerned students can contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 303-615-0220 or email@example.com.
Depending on complexity and volume it may take some time for a response, but University leadership has committed to providing follow-up to all inquiries.
Last update 8/12/19