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Expert panel appointed to review handling of materials containing asbestos

The University of Toronto has asked an expert panel to review the way materials containing asbestos are handled across its campuses.

The three-member review team is composed of both external and U of T experts. It will be chaired by epidemiologist Jack Siemiatycki, a professor of social and preventive medicine at École de santé publique de l'Université de Montréal (ESPUM) and the principal scientist at le Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal.

The other members are both at U of T’s division of occupational and environmental health: Associate Professor Andrea Sass-Kortsak, and Roland Hosein, an adjunct professor. Hosein is also the former vice-president of environment, health and safety at General Electric Canada Company Inc.

“We’re committed to providing a safe environment for our community to study and work and this review is an effort to ensure we are doing our best,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations. “We are very grateful to the panel’s members for agreeing to take up this important task.”

The panel’s mandate is to examine and evaluate U of T’s Asbestos Management Program on all three campuses to make recommendations on best practices and to ensure the program complies with regulations.

In advance of major renovations, it is standard practice at U of T to remove any materials that contain asbestos, which was in common use until the 1980s. The university also maintains a detailed database of locations where asbestos is known to be present.

The panel will provide a report to Mabury, Vivek Goel, vice-president of research and innovation, and Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president of human resources and equity.  The university plans to make the recommendations public along with its response.

The expert review comes after questions were raised last year about the university’s handling of construction work involving asbestos at the Medical Sciences Building. Since then, the university has taken more than 3,400 random air tests at MSB. All tests all have shown the building is safe.