On October 20, 2011, Marisa Hutton called 911 at The College of New Jersey complaining about trouble breathing, according to The Times of Trenton. “I’m not feeling too good, if you can send someone over here. I’m having a hard time breathing. There is some kind of smell over here.”
Hutton has an office in Armstrong Hall, which holds classrooms and offices for the School of Engineering. The responding officer, Julia Verwers, reported the following: Hutton “had numbness and tingling in her left arm,” was “asthmatic and having difficulty breathing,” and “having a hard time staying conscious.”
A couple of days prior to Hutton’s issues, a work crew started placing an adhesive on the building as part of a job to replace the roof. The adhesive caused a chemical odor that seeped into the halls, classrooms and offices. The work continued for months, causing the odor to remain and cause complaints from employees.
Emails sent internally suggested that administrators suggest ‘hand holding’ and environmental health officers talk the employees into living with the smell out of fear of mass amounts of relocation requests. Hutton made it through the problems she suffered on October 20, but her attorney claims that her respiratory issues have increased because of the exposure to the adhesive.
At least six employees of the school reported suffering from dizziness, headaches, eye irritation or nausea from the odor in October of 2011. In the weeks following, other employees reported concerns about the smell and how it would affect staff and students. The work was completed in December of 2011.
The dean of the engineering school, Steven Schreiner, wrote a letter to the director of campus construction, William Rudeau, voicing his concerns and frustrations. The letter was sent on December 9, 2011.
“I hope this is the end of this — if there is any additional use of the adhesive, it needs to be scheduled when the building is closed,” he wrote. “Today’s level of odor was unacceptable, and I have no faith that the contractor can keep it out of the building.”
Hutton was one of the very first employees to suffer symptoms from the odor in the building, with most of the effects lingering today.
“Her doctors are saying that she has become asthmatically sensitized,” said attorney Edward Slaughter of Pellettieri, Rabstein & Altman. “It is not as though she is chronically ill in the sense that she needs constant pulmonary support, … but if she comes into contact with certain smells or odors, she will react, and she will react negatively. She attempted to get herself into a situation where she was not going to be exposed. I know that she did try to get a transfer and I know that it did take a long time to occur.”