It has been reported that Plimpton Hall, one of Barnard College’s residential housing locations, has an exterior foam layer containing asbestos wrapping around the building. 

Students were shocked to come back to their suites yesterday evening to find a notice on the entrance door declaring that a removal procedure will be carried out from the October 25 to November 25. No students are currently being moved out of the building while this removal takes place, subsequently causing a great deal of unrest amongst residents of Plimpton and their parents. Barnard students annually pay $10,435 for on-campus housing.

The discovery of Plimpton’s asbestos comes on the back of several housing issues at Columbia and Barnard, including Carman’s lack of hot water, ceilings collapsing, and fire alarm problems.

What is asbestos? 

Asbestos is a bundle of fibers made up of six materials that are resistant to heat and corrosion; it is often found in older buildings, as it was commonly used commercially and industrially before the substance’s adverse effects were discovered. When asbestos is disturbed, fibers can be released and become trapped in the lungs, causing inflammation and internal scarring. Asbestos is also a known carcinogen, leading most frequently to lung, larynx and ovary cancer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of asbestos but it is still present in many older architectural structures.

What can you do if you’re concerned about the asbestos situation? 

If you are worried about any health or safety-related matters, contact the following:

  • Barnard Health Service: 212-854-2091
  • Barnard Public Safety: 212-854-3362 or 212-854-6666
  • Barnard Residential Life and Housing: 212-854-5561


  • Columbia Public Safety: 212-854-5555 or 212-854-2797

What is Barnard doing about this situation?

We reached out to Barnard’s Communications team and received the following statement from Daniel S. Davis, Executive Director of Facilities Services:

Barnard College takes the health and well-being of the community seriously, and as such, has engaged professional contractors for an asbestos abatement project at the exterior stairs of the entrance of Plimpton Hall. For safety reasons, the area is barricaded off. In addition, and as required by law, an environmental consultant conducts air monitoring tests throughout the process. Asbestos removal in occupied buildings is a common practice in New York City buildings built before the 1970s, and these industry practices ensure the safety of residents.

Bwog has also reached out to Degmor Environmental Services for further information.

Edit Oct 23, 1:11 pm: Students should also feel free to contact Facilities Services, who is working with the contractors on the abatement project, at 212-854-2041 if they have any concerns or questions.

Photo via Vivian Zhou