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August 10, 2018, The Tragic Tale of the Radium Girls

August 9, 2018
Greetings from the Bluff Park Back Porch, way up yonder on Shades Mountain (1,109′) in Alabama:
Radium is highly radioactive and its immediate daughter, radon gas, is also radioactive. Exposure to radium, internal or external, can cause cancer and other disorders.

Grace Fryer, One of the first Radium Girls.

The radium industry hadn’t reckoned with the courage and tenacity of the radium girls themselves

1921 magazine advertisement for Undark, a product of the Radium Luminous Material Corporation which was involved in the Radium Girls scandal. Retouched version

The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint.
The women in each facility had been told the paint was harmless, and subsequently ingested deadly amounts of radium after being instructed to “point” their brushes on their lips in order to give them a fine point; some also painted their fingernails, face and teeth with the glowing substance. The women were instructed to point their brushes because using rags, or a water rinse, caused them to waste too much time and waste too much of the material made from powdered radium, gum arabic and water.
From 1917 to 1926, U.S. Radium Corporation, originally called the Radium Luminous Material Corporation, was engaged in the extraction and purification of radium from carnotite ore to produce luminous paints, which were marketed under the brand name “Undark“. The ore was mined from the Paradox Valley in Colorado[2] and other “Undark mines” in Utah.[3] As a defense contractor, U.S. Radium was a major supplier of radioluminescent watches to the military. Their plant in Orange, New Jersey, employed more than a hundred workers, mainly women, to paint radium-lit watch faces and instruments, misleading them that it was safe.
An estimated 4,000 workers were hired by corporations in the U.S. and Canada to paint watch faces with radium.  Many of the workers became sick. It is unknown how many died from exposure to radiation.
The Radium Girls’ saga holds an important place in the history of both the field of health physics and the labor rights movement. Radium paint was still used in dials as late as the 1960s.[13]
01 radium girls RESTRICTED

Radium dial painters working in a factory

“Radium Jaw”.  A case where a dentist went to pull a tooth on one of the girls and a large segment of the jaw came with it.
The Radium Girls were so contaminated that if you stood over their graves today with a Geiger counter, the radiation levels would still cause the needles to jump more than 80 years later.
It is a sad tale that other women suffered from radium hair gel, toothpaste, powders, creams, lotions, lip stick and count less other products.
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