This blog has written repeatedly on two themes: the continuing presence of asbestos in the environment and the hazards associated with renovating older buildings in which use of asbestos was common. The latter theme is especially important in North Carolina and other states with large stocks of buildings constructed prior to WWII. Now these two themes have come together in surprising fashion connection with the renovation of one of America's most modernistic and iconic structures: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Few structures symbolize post-war America as dramatically as the Gateway Arch. Its clean and striking lines almost say "No asbestos here." But now, a multimillion dollar renovation of the Arch has been slowed down by the discovery of asbestos-containing products in the Arch's underground museum. While no asbestos fibers have been detected in the public areas of the Arch and the museum, the potential for contamination in the basement remains high. Workers cut into a pipe on Nov. 3 and discovered asbestos insulation. The workers then realized that they had cut into the same pipe one month earlier. This discovery meant that asbestos fibers had been released into the basement spaces during the intervening thirty days. The National Park Service, which manages the Arch and its grounds, believes that 50 park service employees were exposed to the airborne fibers.