Exposed Asbestos Found in Kitchens, But Health Experts Contend It's Safe
University officials said yesterday that samples of exposed pipe insulation take from food service kitchens contain asbestos. Many scientists have linked long-term exposure to asbestos with certain types of cancer.
Louis Diberardinis, the Harvard industrial hygienist who oversaw the testing, said the asbestos poses no immediate danger to University employees or students.
The tests were initiated by officials of the dining-hall-workers union, who took samples from kitchens at Adams House, the Freshman Union, and the Business School's Kresge Dining Hall, as well as from the food service tunnels that connect the River Houses.
Diberardinis said three out of the four samples contained asbestos, but said be could not confirm which sample did not.
Benjamin Walcott, assistant director of Food Services, said Food Services has a standing practice of investigating and sealing all asbestos leakage. "Show me where there is a problem and we'll have it fixed," he said.
"No one would deny that there is asbestos I'm baffled because I don't know why the union is going through all this," added Walcott.
But Marie Kenney, business agent at Harvard for the International Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Employees and Bartenders Union Local 26--which represents the University's 500 food service employees--yesterday expressed concern about the findings.
"We are mad that in this day and age the asbestos is still there. Harvard is supposed to be a progressive institution," she said.
The Union also took insulation samples from the same locations to state laboratories, where results are not yet available.
Conflict Over Access
A war of words erupted yesterday when Kenney and another union official. Barbara Rice, took two photographs of exposed insulation in a tunnel leading to Kirkland House.
Kenney charged that Edward Powers, associate general counsel for Employee Relations, called her yesterday and said that she and other officials from Local 26 were forbidden all access to Harvard property without an escort. Kenney said she plans to file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board today.
Powers denied Kenney's statement yesterday, saying that he had restricted access "only in areas closed to the public." Powers added that this was not the first time he has asked union officials to stay out of restricted areas.
Powers said that neither Kenney nor Rice asked permission to take photographs.
Domenic Bozzotto, the president of Local 26, said yesterday. "Powers can't stop the union. What should upset him is not that we took pictures but that the asbestos is there."