Friday, November 27, 2009


The United States Radium Corporation

The US Radium Corporation, which made a fortune in the 1920s from producing millions of luminously painted watch dials, fish bait and dolls' eyes, found itself at the center of a national scandal in 1924 when dozens of their female painters, some only twelve years old, began to fall ill and die, horribly and mysteriously. An independent inquiry into the deaths learned that in order to produce the fine artwork needed on the watch dials, the girls were expected to lick excess luminous paint from their brushes: some of the girls even painted their teeth and lips for a lark. The company meanwhile consistently denied that there was any link between the deaths and the tiny amount of radioactive material used in the paint. Then in 1925 the company chemist Edwin Lehman, although never directly in regular contact with the deadly paint, also suddenly fell dead. The autopsy found that Lehman's bones were so radioactive that, when left on an unexposed photographic plate, they photographed themselves.

From The Giant Bathroom Reader


Anonymous said...

Yes, this was a horrible event that makes us all think twice. Check out what happened to match makers. The original matches that came in glass jars.

K and S said...

I'll see if The Giant Bathroom Reader has that story!

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