Museum of Atomic perMutation

Women employed by U.S. Radium Corporation, featuring the so-called Radium Girls

Internal deposition of radium, taken in through the mouth.

Bone Cancer, especially of the jaw;
General physical deterioration;

For fun in the dark, these workers were known to have painted their teeth and faces with the novel paint.

In the 1920s, the US Radium Corporation encouraged their workers to keep their paint brushes sharp using their tongues as they painted the details of watch faces in glow-in-the-dark paint. The novelty of the radium-based paint they used lay not just in the fact that it can make watch faces glow-in-the-dark, but also in the immense pain and suffering it induces in the human body once inside. In sufficient doses death becomes certain.

One of the things that distiguishes this labor abuse from many is that the story made it into the media, and several (5) of the women, who came to be known as The Radium Girls actually won some money in court after overcoming some severe abuses of power, some really despicable, underhanded behavior on the part of US Radium. Their reward wasn't much though; it seems the judge had private economic interest in the company of the defendant.

Unlike much suffering, theirs has served to prevent the suffering of others by setting a precedent, a baseline of PROVABLE suffering. Through their misforture the link between internal doses of radiation and cancer was firmly established. Industrial safety standards were enhanced based on studies of 1,346 radium dial painters.*

Killing Our Own
H. Wasserman and N. Solomon
"... it became well known that radium-dial painters who had ingested bits of radium in their work were suffering agonizing deaths from cancer. In 1941 a standard that limited radium ingestion was set based on their experience."

Radiation Induced Cancer in Humans
"In the 1920's, watch dials were painted with a radium based luminous paint. The employees, all women, who did this work often licked their paint brushes to give them a sharp point and ingested a small quantity of the paint each time they did this. The radium in the paint collected in the bones of these employees and resulted in bone tumours 8 to 40 years later. ... Fig. shows the distribution of cancers among the 1346 radium dial painters that were followed up. It demonstrates quite clearly that the risk of cancer increases with the radiation dose."

Mass Media & Environmental Conflict -- Radium Girls

Radium Dial Painter Research
Oral History of Health Physicist Constantine J. Maletskos, Ph.D.

Alan's Vintage Watches
watch with radioactive radium dial and X-ray pattern created by the radioactive decay.
||___Read or add your F E E D B A C K to the story of The Radium Girls___
Museum of Atomic perMutation

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last update: December 1998
* The Museum of Atomic perMutation * is a by-product of NUKEVILLE