Air conditioner spreads paint fumes; classes forced to close

By Joseph Barrios

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Classes were cancelled and offices were closed Monday in the Modern Languages building after people became ill from paint fumes.

Students and employees began complaining of headaches, nausea and dizziness after the floor of studio "A" of the KUAT facilities was painted, said Francis Sherlock, KUAT television production manager. The KUAT facilities are located on the first and second floors of the building.

"Because it was a floor, they painted it very quickly," he said. "Stopping them wasn't an option. They didn't know (the air-conditioning system) was going to dump (the fumes) all over the building."

Facilities Management used an epoxy paint because a weaker paint, which was used in another studio over the summer, wore away after a few weeks. Epoxy paints, which tend to last longer, are not toxic, Sherlock said.

Epoxy paints contain volatile chemicals which evaporate as they dry, said Julia Rosen, a risk management industrial hygienist. The fumes can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness among other symptoms, she said.

"Not only was it very annoying, we thought people were getting ill from it," said Arlene Starr, a media arts administrative assistant. Media arts offices are located next to KUAT facilities on the first and second floors of Modern Languages.

Starr said employees began to leave about 11 a.m. and returned about 1 p.m. to find the fumes were still strong throughout the building. The English and classics departments closed for the day.

"It was really just awful. It was getting worse as time went on," said Michael Little, a student supervisor for the media arts production lab.

Sherlock said the paint shop and KUAT underestimated the strength and prevalence of the paint fumes. He said KUAT and media arts facilities use an air-conditioning system separate from the rest of building.

It is unknown how many classes were cancelled or relocated Monday. Classes resumed normally yesterday and employees were back in their offices.

Facilities management was scheduled to apply a second coat today, but decided to wait until Saturday when there are no classes, Sherlock said.

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