Building under investigation after faculty members develop tumors

Upon returning to the Skyline campus at the beginning of the fall semester, a few concerns were raised as to the health of the staff who taught in building seven.Over the last decade, there have been two staff members who shared the same office that have developed what’s called acoustic neuroma, which is a type of benign tumor. Ann Ban, the first to develop the tumor had it removed in 2001 and has since retired last year. The second, Shari Bookstaff, had it removed in July and is currently receiving rehabilitation treatment at Mills Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo.While Shari is on her way to recovery, there is a question posed here on campus: Are the other staff members and students in building seven in danger of developing similar conditions, or are the two cases separate and completely coincidental?”We’ve actually had some students who asked ‘Is the building safe to be in?'” said Mike Williamson, dean of science, math, and technology. To which he replied, “The building is safe.” Recently, the building underwent an investigation with the hopes of clearing up any remaining concerns. Specialists and industrial hygienists, in association with the Northern California Cancer Center (NCCC), have been visiting the campus and running various tests. On Sept. 12, the NCCC began studies of brain tumors, targeting acoustic neuroma, and looked for clues in the frequency of cases to see whether these were by chance or not. Unfortunately, a primary cause has yet to have been discovered. According to a website from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), it is known that acoustic neuroma occurs more often in women than men and that most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60 years old. An industrial hygienist also visited campus on Sept. 12 to test the air quality in the building. He checked the area near the office where Ban and Bookstaff worked, which is located on the first floor near the anatomy room, the cadaver room, and a large closet used to store hazardous materials. “Because it’s a science lab, we do have chemistry things, and we do have biology things, but the lab techs handle stuff really safely,” said Williamson. “Keep it closed up in vented cabinets.”In order to sample the air, the Hygienist placed four vacuum canisters in various places around the office, and tested for 62 different chemicals. He also placed six formaldehyde-testing canisters. As of now, the results have not been released.On Sept. 22, another industrial hygienist visited campus to look into both the general safety of the building and specifically the ventilation system. “We spent three hours touring every space in the building, looking at every opening in the building, looking at ducting,” said Williamson. They were looking for how air was flowing through the building. Plans of the building were also given to the hygienist. The report on the ventilation is also yet to be released.Williamson hopes that once the results of the three different inspections are received, a final report can be drawn up and released to campus authorities, after which a campus meeting will be held where the test results will be presented and then allow for questions and answers. Stay tuned online and in the print version of The Skyline View for more updates.