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Scientologists Exposed to Blue Asbestos for 21 Years

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Curacao, Netherlands AntillesPerhaps now that high-ranking members of the Church of Scientology�including Tom Cruise�may have been exposed to asbestos, an all-out ban on this human carcinogen in the US may come about sooner. But it can also mean that thousands more people can potentially develop mesothelioma.

The MV Freewinds, Scientology's cruise ship, has been sealed and docked in Caracao due to blue asbestos (crocidolite) that was released and spread through the ventilation system, affecting thousands of people.

Asbestos ExposureThe Church of Scientology's members were attending Scientology courses, training services and functions aboard the ship. According to the Daily Herald, a local newspaper, the blue asbestos was released from the ship's structure during refurbishing and reparatory work.

This is not the first time the MV Freewinds has been investigated for blue asbestos. In 2001, a former Scientology member, architect Lawrence Woodcraft, submitted a sworn affidavit stating that he was exposed to blue asbestos while working on the Freewinds in 1987. As well, a statement from the ship's captain claimed that there were previous incidents where blue asbestos was released into the ship's ventilation system. But the Church of Scientology denied Woodcraft's claim and in so doing, the Church knowingly exposed its passengers and members to this most deadliest form of asbestos for the past 21 years!

Since 1970, raw blue asbestos�the most hazardous of asbestos-- was banned in the UK. The fibers from blue asbestos are the narrowest of this fibrous mineral and therefore the most easily respirable. Blue asbestos was known more than three decades ago to be the major cause of mesothlioma, which is a cancer of the pleural lining of the lung or much less commonly of the peritoneum. Mesothelioma is incurable, and commonly leads to a great deal of pain and other suffering. This horrific disease often has a very long latency period (it can manifest itself 40 years or more after asbestos exposure).

The risk of asbestos-related diseases from asbestos that is well-contained in structures such as steel and cement are minimal. However, the risks are extremely high when asbestos is removed, such as the case with refurbishing of the Freewinds.

Isn't it time to ban asbestos completely? Just as importantly, more enforcement and strict policing is needed when it comes to asbestos removal, refurbishment, maintenance and demolition work.

Anyone who has been aboard MV Freewinds should see their doctor to determine their level of exposure to blue asbestos. And they may want to seek legal advice.



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