Running Head: RADIUM DIAL GIRLS The Radium Dial Girls Name School Radium: Its Uses and Effects Radium was first discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898. The rarity of radium and the long, tedious separation from its parent material, the uranium ore, made it very expensive at $100thousand per gram in 1921…
Physicians took interest in the gamma ray emissions from radium radioactive decomposition and the potential therapeutic effects of internally deposited radium in humans (Rowland, 1994). Beginning in 1903, radium use became popular in the U.S. Its healing powers and the improved quality of lives of users have been widely publicized in the country. Radium drink or “liquid sunshine” could treat stomach cancer (Badash, 1979). Tumors could be reduced or removed through direct application of radium salts. Candies and sodas were laced with radium. Radium facial creams could rejuvenate skin in women while radium baths could restore vitality in men. Radithor, radium-mixed water, was claimed to cure dyspepsia, hypertension, sexual incapacity, and several endocrinologic ailments. However, in large quantities, Radithor-intake proved lethal. Millionaire-socialite golf champion Eben Byers, after four years of consuming more than a thousand bottles of Radithor, suffered and died of acute anemia, excessive weight loss, massive damage of his jawbone, skull, and whole skeleton, and failure of kidneys and bone-marrow (Moss & Eckhardt, 1995). Research on the radioluminous ability of radium flourished in the 1900s. In 1908, radium paint was initially developed in Germany. In 1913, America started making “glow in the dark” paint. The U.S. ...
Radium Corporation, combining glue, water and radium powder to form a luminous paint, and cautiously applying it with a camel hair brush to the dials and numbers of the military devices. These women use their lips and tongue to shape their brush into a fine point. "Our instructors told us to point them with our lips. I think I pointed mine with my lips about six times to every watch dial. It didn't taste funny. It didn't have any taste, and I didn't know it was harmful," said Grace Fryer in an interview for the Daily Courier (Pfalzgray, 1928). For pranks, some women even painted their nails and teeth to surprise their boyfriends at night. Nearly all surfaces inside the factory glistened with radioluminescence. During that time, everyone knew that radium possesses curative powers. None of the women knew that the tasteless, attractive mixture could lead them to their painful deaths. The owners, company scientists and chemists were well aware of the hazards of radioactivity, thus they took precautionary measures in handling the material. The company even handed out leaflets to their medical staff of the dangers of radium (Neuzil & Kovarik, 1996). After three years, Grace Fryer left the factory and worked as a bank teller. In 1922, her teeth began to loosen and fall out and her jaw bone seriously decayed. No physician could diagnose the unique medical condition of Fryer. In 1925, a dentist finally suggested that she could have acquired her health problems from her previous job as radium dial painter, as his female patients with similar conditions grew in numbers. These patients were employees of dial-painting factories (Neuzil & Kovarik, 1996). A ...
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