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Wescoe found to be safe; offices to be moved

Air handling system to be replaced

A yearlong epidemiological investigation has found no increased incidence of brain cancer among occupants of Wescoe Hall and that the close proximity of the offices of people who had cancer was coincidental and unrelated to the building's air or water quality.

Full Report

See the full epidemiological report.

KU is following recommendations to correct airflow problems in the building. The work will require offices on the first three floors of the building to move temporarily while the work is conducted.

KU has begun a $3 million, two-year project to replace the air-handling systems on Wescoe's first three floors. The work to replace air-handling systems has begun on the first floor and will continue in 2008 and 2009 on the second and third floors. Staff members on those floors will have to vacate their offices for several months as the work progresses.

Paul D'Anieri, associate dean for humanities, said several moves have been made already. So far, mostly graduate teaching assistants from the English department and faculty from a few other departments have moved from first floor offices to spaces on the second and third floors. The departments of Spanish and Portuguese and of history have moved to the "west wing," or the newly constructed space on the south side, sometimes referred to as the "Wescoe Infill."

Discussions are taking place about the order in which offices on the second and third floors will be asked to move and where they will be temporarily located.

"Everybody on the second and third floors will have to move at some point," D'Anieri said. "We will be consulting with the departments to make sure there is as little disruption as possible."

The majority of offices affected on the first floor will be converted to classrooms, D'Anieri said, and will feature more natural light, via new windows. The Department of Classics will eventually move back to the first floor.

"It's going to be a massive logistical effort and will be disruptive. However, the results will be worth it," he said.

KU initiated the investigation, led by nationally known epidemiologist John Neuberger, in response to an employee's concern that in the past decade five people with offices in the building reportedly have been diagnosed with brain tumors, three of them benign.

The report found no increased incidence of cancer or brain tumors among building occupants.

"While the cause of the brain tumors in Wescoe Hall is unknown, we conclude that the proximity of these tumors are likely due to chance, and are unrelated to occupancy in that building," the report stated.

Moreover, the investigation found that there were fewer cases of cancer among Wescoe staff than would be expected. The analysis focused on people who worked in Wescoe from 1995 through 2006.

The inquiry found problems with airflow in many offices but noted "brain tumors have not been found to be related to airflow problems."

Though a few offices sampled in spring 2006 showed formaldehyde levels slightly above National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guidelines, no offices exceeded U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration or EPA standards. Repeat testing in fall 2006 showed formaldehyde levels had fallen below the NIOSH guidelines.

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