The University of Oxford has announced that the Tinbergen building has had to be evacuated following the discovery of asbestos.
Some 1,600 students and staff will not be able to work in the building, which houses the departments of zoology and experimental psychology, for up to two years.
The building was opened in the 1970 at a time when asbestos was widely used in the construction industry. Exposure to asbestos is known to be the only cause of the fatal lung disease, mesothelioma.
Recent refurbishments works and inspection of heating facilities in the building have revealed asbestos deposits that were previously un-noticed. The university was always aware of the presence of some asbestos, but the level is reported to have reached levels which mean the building has to be closed.
A statement from the university said that is was not believed there was a health risk to regular users of the building, and that asbestos was found last year, but was not in “accessible” areas.
Asbestos lawyer, Harminder Bains, who has represented victims of asbestos disease who have worked in building such as shops, airports, hospitals, and schools said:
“All asbestos, including chrysotile (white asbestos) is an extremely dangerous substance which can lead to the development of serious and fatal illness.
“It is a concern that students and academic staff have potentially been exposed to a health hazard that causes untold misery for people who go on to develop mesothelioma.
“I hope that the university authorities at Oxford move quickly to make this building as safe as possible by instructing asbestos removal experts.”