Investigation needed

Chico State hasn’t done enough to determine whether a campus building should stay open

Another Chico State building—the Physical Science Building this time—is the subject of concern among several faculty members. (Last spring, Butte Hall was tested for the presence of asbestos fibers.)

The science building is unquestionably in poor shape. It’s leaky and moldy in places, and lacks proper ventilation. The facility rains down black dust on its occupants (see “Physically ill,” by Ken Smith, Newslines, Aug. 8).

Those who work there are understandably worried that it’s a sick building. These people just happen to be scientists, mind you.

Chico State’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety conducted tests on the dust and concluded that the substances identified—mold spores and fungus—were common and that the building is fit to work and study in.

The problem is that those results differ from the tests conducted by one of the faculty members.

A professor who teaches in the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department cultured the dust himself. He found the presence of mycotoxins and then sent samples to an outside laboratory for further study. Results from that certified lab referred to the substances as “potent neurotoxins, carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens and immunosuppressants.” One study referenced by the lab linked such toxins to lung and liver cancers.

That’s a pretty big discrepancy from Chico State’s finding.

University officials note that the structure is labeled for eventual demolition, but no timeline is in place. In the meantime, the building is open for business as usual.

Chico State officials have an obligation to fully investigate this discrepancy and figure out if the building is indeed a healthy space. Those who use the facility aren’t convinced that’s happened. Neither are we.