NC State knew of concerns about toxic chemicals inside Poe Hall months before the building closed
On September 25, the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health sent a letter to North Carolina State University indicating that they had received a “complaint regarding” an employee.
The complaint alleged that employees were exposed to lead paint and possibly PCBs, which can cause cancer and other serious health problems. It also claimed that employees were not informed of the “existence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing materials, despite ongoing renovation and asbestos removal work.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs are linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and weakened immune systems, among other things.
The letter was issued 53 days before the university evacuated staff and students from Bow Hall. On November 16, a letter sent by the university to students and staff indicated that tests found “the presence of environmental contaminants, PCBs, in the building.” The university added that it closed Poe Hall out of “an abundance of caution.” However, the university did not reveal specific dates for conducting the tests.
Since the university’s official announcement, staff and current students, as well as former students who spent time studying inside Poe Hall, have told 5 On Your Side they are not receiving enough information from the university.
“It opened a Pandora’s box of questions,” said Denise, a North Carolina mother who wanted to keep her last name secret to protect her son’s identity. “The email was so nice it was ignored; it’s making the parents angry.”
Denise says her son had a weekly three-hour lab inside Poe Hall this semester and had been sick for months. “He’s the type of person who never misses classes, but that’s changed,” she said. His symptoms are described as flu-like and allergy-like, which persisted despite medical intervention.
“He took amoxicillin for ten days, and nothing changed, and Dayquil and Nyquil, and we were taking allergy pills. It got to the point that his eyes were so red after our third trip to urgent care — he had to start taking eye drops because it looked like he didn’t,” she said. He’s been sleeping for days.”
Dennis isn’t the only person wondering if conditions at Bow Hole may have contributed to the disease. “I spent a lot of time in this building,” said Leslie, a former student who did not want to give her last name. “I wondered if or how this contributed to my health problems today.”
Leslie said she attended NC State University from 2000 to 2006 and developed a thyroid condition while at school. She was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “I know that the toxins in Boo Hole cannot be directly linked to my health problems, but I feel there may be some contribution,” Leslie said.
WRAL 5 On Your Side asked NC State University if it would provide health guidance to affected people. The university suggested students and employees speak with their doctor or campus health.
“I mean the amount of money they make on parents to get this education is amazing. Why couldn’t more have been done?” Dennis asked.