After Judge’s Death, Broward Courthouse Tested for Toxins

After a Broward County judge passed away from lung cancer last month, the courthouse where she worked has come under scrutiny for possible contamination with mold and asbestos, reports Tonya Alanez for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  Fifty-two year old Cheryl Aleman was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of cancer only weeks before she died on December 2, the article explains. Soon after her death, other judges and Broward County courthouse workers ordered a report on the environmental conditions of the building, Alanez says, specifically testing for toxic mold and asbestos.  According to the story, the ninth floor, where Aleman and several others had offices, tested positive for fungal spores and asbestos fibers “above the regulatory limit.”  Three judges with chambers on the ninth floor have temporarily moved their offices and requested further testing, reports the Sun-Sentinel. Though the article claims that officials have known about the presence of asbestos in the courthouse for a year and a half, it was not initially a cause for concern.  “It is in ceiling tiles and floor tiles, but it’s not in the air,” said Pete Corwin, assistant to the county administrator, the story reports. Corwin goes on to explain his actions and those of others, saying “We always knew it was there; it was just a matter of mapping where it is exactly,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. When bound up in construction materials such as floor and ceiling tiles, asbestos is generally not harmful.  However, when these materials are disturbed, fibers of the mineral can become airborne, making them dangerous.  One serious consequence of asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs.  Though Aleman’s death is attributed to “lung cancer,” it is unclear from the article whether she suffered from mesothelioma or another type of cancer. A new courthouse is in the works, Alanez reports, but it will not be completed and ready for use until 2014.  The Sun-Sentinel also points out that other courthouse employees are bringing a series of lawsuits against the county for subjecting them to a toxic work environment.  Bob McKee, one of the lawyers on the case, was recorded as saying, “It’s our perspective that this building should not be inhabited for work; it’s making people sick.” References: Tonya Alanez. (January 10, 2011) “Judges move to new chambers, request mold and asbestos testing at courthouse.” Retrieved January 12, 2011 from the Sun-Sentinel. Previous: Damaged World Trade Center Neighbor Nearly Dismantled Next: UK Asbestos Activist Succumbs to Mesothelioma