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Technical troubles

Mary Smith, who was undergoing treatment at Dr, Michael Harbut’s clinic recently, is among at least five patients from Cass Technical High School that the doctor has treated for sick building syndrome.

Steve Conn, Cass Tech’s Detroit Federation of Teachers union representative, confirms that Cass has “very, very poor air circulation, especially in the more modern part, which has almost no windows.” He says the ventilation system sometimes “backfires dirt into the air.” A chemical analysis of the dirt found high levels of organic materials, which should not have been there, and Fiberglas, apparently from the ventilation pipes themselves, some of which are broken.

Detroit Public Schools officials did not respond to questions from the Metro Times regarding Conn’s assertions.

“We formally grieved that, trying to get the administration to do a thorough study of the air and we just got nowhere,” he says. He also says that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the school once and also issued a lengthy, highly critical report on the building, to no apparent result.

He confirms that several other teachers besides Smith have fought for and won early retirements due to “sick building syndrome,” but those settlements required strict secrecy.

Conn adds: “One year we pushed real hard to get a set of new screens put into the ventilation system and within just a few weeks they turned completely black. Right now, if you went around the building, you would find a lot of them are just filthy.” Jim Dulzo is a veteran Detroit-area jazz broadcaster, critic and concert producer. E-mail

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