Wednesday

The Radium Girls - Dying to paint watch dials

"The story of the radium watch-dial painters is a classic case in the history of occupational disease. Attracted by easy work and high wages, these young women painted the luminous numbers on wristwatches that, designed for soldiers involved in the trench warfare of World War I, became a consumer fad in the 1920s. The women were taught to sharpen the tips of their paintbrushes between their lips and, as a result, they absorbed substantial quantities of radium. Their tragic illnesses and deaths led to crucial discoveries in radiobiology and contributed to the establishment of standards for the level of exposure to radiation in the workplace." -From The New England Journal of Medicine

I first learned about the Radium Girls when reading this AlanWatch article. He had conducted his own interesting X-Ray and Geiger Counter tests of antique watches with lingering radioactivity. And further explained "In the late 1920s, some dentists began to notice a high incidence of jawbone deterioration among young women, most of whom had worked at the dial company. Later, cancers of the head and neck, anemias, and other disorders were found, resulting in some early deaths." (
and it has been said that 90% of these women died by 1931)

Alan's false-color optical density analysis shows that the crystal spotting is most intense at 10 and 4 o'clock, where the red color is indicated.

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Radium Girls Wikipedia page-->Link
Damn Interesting article-->Link

And below, the book, "Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935" by Claudia Clark;





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