Officials in Curacao have sealed and cordoned off the Freewinds,
Scientology's flag ship, after dock workers found dangerous levels of
blue asbestos during routine repairs.
Curacao Dry dock Company (CDM) workers discovered the blue asbestos
during routine repair and renovation work while the ship was in dry
dock in Otrobanda, Curacao. After an extraordinary meeting, alarmed
Government officials ordered the ship sealed off and decided to inform
the public of their actions in order to avoid rumour and panic among
Reportedly, the 40 year old ship is extensively contaminated with blue
asbestos, the most dangerous form of the carcinogenic mineral. Studies
have shown that there are no safe levels of exposure to asbestos and a
single microscopic particle could remain lodged in the lungs for years
and in the right conditions, cause lung cancer. Decontamination, if it
is even possible, is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars and
would result in the ship being in dry dock for many months.
Alarm was raised amongst Government officials after it was revealed
that the captain of the Freewinds took no action to alert the crew
after CDM workers accidentally released the asbestos dust into the
ventilation system. Despite being informed of the accident, and the
danger, the captain chose to keep the incident secret.
Members of the public have noted with concern that the Church of
Scientology appears to have been aware of the asbestos problem for 21
years and has chosen not to address it, despite being informed of the
health risks. In a 2001 affidavit Freewinds' architect Lawrence
Woodcraft states that after the purchase of the Freewinds in 1987 he
went aboard to supervise the renovation and refitting of the old cruise
liner. During the renovations blue asbestos was discovered in the
engine room and then throughout the ship. He immediately informed
senior Scientology management of the discovery and of its health risk
to passengers and the ships Scientologist refit workers. Scientology
chose to take no action, stating that since L Ron Hubbard,
Scientology's founder, had never said that asbestos was dangerous there
was no risk.
Woodcraft reported that as the renovations fell behind schedule an
independent non-Scientologist company was brought in to assist, but
left in fear for the safety of the refurbishment crew after a few
weeks. Renovations continued regardless, this time with dozens of
contracted Scientologists protected only by dust masks.
Since 1987 thousands of passengers have travelled on the Freewinds,
both for Scientology's advanced courses as well as for conferences and
other events. Many, if not all passengers and crew may have been
exposed to asbestos dust churned up by the movement of the ship and
standard maintenance work. Medical advice for dealing with asbestos
recommends ongoing monitoring for lung cancer is required for anyone
who believes they may have been exposed to the carcinogen.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma, effect on health:
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