FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Three Broward judges have moved to temporary offices at the county’s courthouse while environmental testing is done on their old chambers for mold, asbestos and other potentially hazardous material.
Judges Patti Englander Henning, Mily Rodriguez-Powell and Susan Greenhawt requested the testing after the death of fellow judge Cheryl Aleman, who died last month from an aggressive form of lung cancer, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The three judges, who shared offices on the same floor with Aleman, were concerned that asbestos and mold could have caused or contributed to her cancer.
Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma cancer and mold can lead to serious respiratory problems and sinus infections
“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty, there’s a high percentage of unexplained illness,” said chief judge Victor Tobin when asked if he considers the courthouse a “sick” building.
Testing of Aleman’s chambers and her usual courtroom found asbestos fibers “above the regulatory limit” and high concentrations of fungal spores which could be affecting nearby areas.
“I have no theory whether Judge Aleman’s health condition is related to the building,” said Greenhawt who was nurse before she was a lawyer. “I think there’s mold and asbestos and yes, if that defines a sick building, then it’s a sick building.”
Several court employees have sued the county over the environmental conditions at the courthouse. Their attorney Bob McKee, who is a law partner of former state senator Walter “Skip” Campbell, has hired independent experts to test several floors of the courthouse at the request of Englander Henning along with judges Victor Tobin, Dale Cohen and Marc Speiser.
Assistant county administrator Pete Corwin said the county is doing its own testing. Corwin added that they were aware of asbestos in the courthouse from a survey a year and a half ago which found it in ceiling tiles and floor tiles. He said they were unaware that it was in the air.
Funds for a new courthouse have been approved, but construction won’t be completed for at least another three years.
Source: The Sun-Sentinel