SS E. J. Block
During the month of October in 1947, a ship known as the SS E. J. Block was launched into the service of the US Merchant Marine fleet. Every ship in this group served the same dual mission: to transport goods most of the time, and to switch over to carrying military supplies or troops whenever needed due to a war or national emergency.
The people who sail on board these ships are well trained and prepared for almost anything. They are ready to deal with enemy vessels and some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. One thing they were never expecting to have to worry about became a nightmare that affected large numbers of the sailors, the presence of a toxic material on board their vessels.
The SS E. J. Block had products that were made out of asbestos all throughout the ship, as did most of her companion vessels. This mineral was the hazardous substance that created so many problems for the brave crew members on board these ocean traversing crafts. It was in use for nearly a century in the US before people were told that it is poisonous, and by then millions of Americans on land and off had been exposed to it.
Asbestos is a tough material, but it is fibrous so tiny pieces of it often break off. These small particles are invisible to the human eye, and they can float in mid-air which allows people to breathe them in without knowing it. The results of inhaling asbestos are often catastrophic. Victims suffer through tissue scarring and breathing disorders, and they often become afflicted with lung cancer or Mesothelioma. An untold number of people have become sick from working with or around the hazardous mineral, and many of them have had their lives cut short by these incurable illnesses.
Anyone who sailed on the SS E. J. Block was put at risk for asbestos exposure. Not everyone who spent time on the ship developed an illness, but many did. Since asbestos was not widely shown to be a danger to human health until the 1970's, many of the people who were made sick may have never discovered why.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.