Evon Colchiski is the father of Pvt. Jason Colchiski, who served a year in Iraq and is now stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. As a father, Evon’s concerns were raised when his 21-year-old son called to tell him that he had been ordered to remove floor tile from a storeroom in a barracks building, which was built during the time of the Korean War, for breaking Fort Bragg regulations. The true concern came when his son informed him that the overseeing officer had told Colchiski, and the other officers assigned to the removal, to “be careful,” as the tiles contained asbestos.
According to recent articles released on FayObserver.com, the father told his son about the dangers of asbestos exposure during a phone conversation and when told to resume working on the floor removal, Pvt. Colchiski told his sergeant that he would not continue the work due to the severe health risks and was then instructed to use a mask. During the work prior to this time, no protective breathing masks were supplied to the officers.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was used regularly in building materials, such as floor tiles, prior to the 1970s when regulations were put in place to limit its use. Exposure to asbestos in its stable form is generally harmless, but exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, which occur when asbestos materials are broken up for removal or from age, can lead to several asbestos-related illnesses including mesothelioma, a form of terminal cancer. Anyone who works around asbestos dust is supposed to wear masks and take other precautions to keep the particles out of their lungs, off their clothes and from getting into the air where it can travel and effect innocent bystanders.
Although the father, Evon, spoke with the son’s sergeant and explained the risks of asbestos exposure, Pvt. Colchiski told his father that on the following day, he saw other officers enter the storeroom to complete the removal and install new tile without protective equipment. Evon proceeded to obtain a sample of the removed tile and have it tested. The test results showed that the tile did indeed contain asbestos and the concerned father notified North Carolina health officials. The N.C. Division of Public Health has jurisdiction even though Fort Bragg is a federal military installation and began investigating the incident with the cooperation of Fort Bragg’s Environmental Branch.
The army conducted chest x-rays and breathing tests on those officers that were exposed; unfortunately, many asbestos-related illnesses have a latency period of 20-50 years. The army has agreed to test those officers involved in the asbestos tile cleanup once a year for the next five years and every five years thereafter. This was according to Bryan Sleigh, the division’s top doctor, 82nd Airborne Division Surgeon.