Owners of the ferry that runs from Little River to Powell River on the Canadian West Coast announced that they would temporarily halt service on one of their boats after a ferry worker discovered what could be loose asbestos in the food preparation and serving areas. Officials at BC Ferries ordered that the Queen of Burnaby be docked until inspectors could make a through investigation of the affected area, as well as other parts of the ship.
BC Ferries Media Relations Director Deborah Marshall said that the company was unsure of the nature of the dust. However, she said, “out of an abundance of caution”, the company ordered the area sealed off pending the results of tests on both the air and the dust. She also said that she expected the ship’s galley and cafeteria sections to be closed for at least a week. She mentioned that the ship was due for a routine maintenance check soon.
During the early- to mid-twentieth century, asbestos was a common material in ships. Shipbuilders used asbestos for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation. The worker, who found the dust on a loose ceiling tile, alerted supervisors to the potential hazard. The ferry will remain in operation on a normal schedule, but the cafeteria and galley areas will be closed off to protect passengers and workers.
Laboratory tests later showed that the powder found around the ceiling tiles was not asbestos, but the shipping company decided to take the necessary precautions. Airborne asbestos fibers can lead to lung diseases and other respiratory ailments. The most serious condition related to asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that strikes at the band of tissue around the lungs. Mesothelioma patients seldom live more than a year after their diagnosis.
Sources: Canada.com, BC Local News.com