nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

The first manufacturing victims of ionising radiation

Until, one by one, the dial painters began, mysteriously, to fall ill.  Their teeth fell out, their mouths filled with sores, their jaws rotted, they wasted away, weakened by an apparently unstoppable anemia. By 1924, nine of the dial painters were dead

The Radium Girls | Speakeasy Science, By Deborah Blum March 24, 2011 “……Radon (Rn) is an element found in the earth’s crust as a radioactive “daughter” of uranium. ……….After American troops joined the war in Europe, (1916) the factory in Orange, New Jersey won a contract to supply radium-dial instruments to the military. By the time the war ended, wristwatches with their glowing dials and handy wristbands were all the style. So were luminous-faced clocks, nicely dressed up in gold and ebony for elegant homes. The corporation’s business was as healthy as ever, as healthy, you might say, as radium itself.There was not a thought worth mentioning that radium might not really be the golden child of the elements.
At the factory, the dial painters were taught to shape their brushes to a fine point with their lips, producing the sharp tip needed to paint the tiny numbers and lines of watch dials, the lacy designs of fashionable clocks. Each worker was expected to paint 250 dials a day, five and a half days a week. They earned about $20 a week for that work, at a rate of one and a half cents per completed dial.

The painters were teen-aged girls and young women who became friendly during the hours together and entertained themselves during by breaks by playing with the paint. They sprinkled the luminous liquid in their hair to make their curls twinkle in the dark. They brightened their fingernails with it. One girl covered her teeth to give herself a Cheshire cat smile when she went home at night.. None of them considered this risky behavior. Why would they when doctors were using the same material to cure people, when wealthy spa residents were paying good money to soak in the stuff, when the popular tonic Radithor was promoted by neighboring company?  No one – certainly not the dial painters themselves – saw anything to worry about it.

Until, one by one, the dial painters began, mysteriously, to fall ill.  Their teeth fell out, their mouths filled with sores, their jaws rotted, they wasted away, weakened by an apparently unstoppable anemia. By 1924, nine of the dial painters were dead. They were all young women in their 20s, formerly healthy, with little in common except for those hours they spent, sitting at their iron-and-wood desks at the factory, painting tiny bright numbers on delicate instruments….

The Radium Girls | Speakeasy Science

About these ads

March 26, 2011 - Posted by | health, history, USA

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,089 other followers

%d bloggers like this: