Thursday, September 15, 2016

Radium Girls

As a rule I don't tend to read non-fiction, however I do enjoy reading books that have a historical take on medicine, science or public health health in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Books like The Poisoner's Handbook, Terrible Typhoid Mary, and The Disappearing Spoon are some of my favorites. 

One thing I find awful but fascinating are occupations that have led to serious illnesses. "Radium Girls" are a perfect example. These were young women hired to paint numbers on watch faces. The paint they used had radium in it, which allowed the numbers to glow in the dark. Back then the dangers of radium were not known, but within a few years Radium Girls starting showing signs of radium poisoning. As related by Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook, "There was one woman who the dentist went to pull a tooth and he pulled her entire jaw out when he did it...Their legs broke underneath them. Their spines collapsed." You can learn more about via the NPR snippet below.  

Read more on the Radium Girls from this short comic

1 comment: