Asbestos has proven to be a very expensive building material. It is expensive in one sense, in that it has cost numerous lives of people who unknowingly inhaled asbestos fibers and developed mesothelioma, in mines where the material was excavated, in plants that used it to make insulation and other building supplies, in California shipyards, in automotive and electrical uses. They paid the ultimate price, and they continue to pay that price.
It has also been expensive for those who find the buildings they own are contaminated with asbestos, whether homeowners in the suburbs of Los Angeles or in commercial buildings. It has proven very expensive for other landowners, like colleges and universities across California and the United States, as they often have many eclectic buildings, built over the years, and using a great many materials at could contain asbestos.
A story about the University of Florida in Gainesville is typical. The University has spent $30 during the last 40 years removing asbestos-containing materials from the campus. One could imagine that in that time, they would have located and removed every bit of asbestos from their buildings.
Alas, they still list 134 locations that they know contain asbestos. Some present little danger to students and faculty, such as those in remote steam tunnels, but others are more dangerous, and require constant monitoring.
The department responsible for handling the asbestos abatement at the University has a $5 million dollar budget, but that includes all health and safety issues on the campus. Because they eliminated most of the dangerous asbestos on the grounds in the early 1980s, what remains is nominally safe as long as it is not disturbed.
They hire an asbestos abatement contractor when a building needs renovation to remove any asbestos that remains. The monitor all known locations, and add to the list when a new site is discovered. And they regularly discover new locations.
The legacy of the 19th and 20th century fondness for asbestos on a location like the University of Florida will probably decades more of ongoing monitoring and abatement.
Source: Gainesville.com, “Asbestos still lurks in spots around UF,” Jeff Schweers, October 13, 2013