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Poe Hall: A Cancer-Causing Building at NC State

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ODU chapter.

North Carolina State University closed its Psychology and Education departmental building, Poe Hall, in November 2023 after discovering links to cancer. As of today, there are over 160 cases of cancer that were found in previous workers and students who spent time in the building. That number continues to rise. 

Polychlorinated biphenyl chemicals, or PCBs, are chemicals commonly found in electric devices, paints and plastics. When there is an excessive amount of PBCs, it creates a hazardous environment from the exposure. Health implications associated with the man-made chemicals are cancer and immune, reproductive, respiratory, liver and neurologic effects. In 1979, just eight years after Poe Hall was built, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) banned the manufacture of PCBs. 

On Sept. 25, 2023, after 52 years of standing, a complaint was made to the North Carolina Department of Labor concerning the safety and health hazards within Poe Hall. Just over two weeks later, an independent environmental inspector tested samples from a room in the building. Although the results of these tests were not released publicly, it is now known that there were 38 times the legal amount of PCBs that the Environmental Protection Agency allows. 

With the closing of Poe Hall, the investigation became more widespread. People who spent time within the building started to come forward about their cancer diagnosis. What started with 40 cases rapidly grew to the number we are aware of today: 164, although that is sure to increase. There are a myriad of cancers, including breast, lymphoma and thyroid.

NC State’s Chancellor Woodson released a statement on Feb. 27, stating “To those of you who have health concerns, please know we hear you and we see you.” I can’t help but to wonder how true that really is. 

The total average cancer treatment costs $150,000 but can be as much as one million dollars. In the best cancer case scenario, lives are completely derailed for a time. Worse case, and unfortunately a common one when it comes to the cancer linked to Poe Hall, people die. 

Knowing this information, NC State has yet to give any compensation to the victims or their families. Since PCBs have been known to cause cancer for nearly 50 years, there is no excuse for the school to keep the building in use for so long. The people who were affected by Poe Hall deserve reparations for the damages that have been caused. 

Reagan is a staff writer and the new event director at Her Campus ODU. She is double majoring in World Cultural Studies and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. In her free time, Reagan loves to write, read, cook, travel, watch films and style/thrift outfits. She values community and experiences and hopes that it shows through her articles.