Remembering the Radium Girls

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In 1917 a young female right out of high school started working at a radium factory in Orange, New Jersey. The job was mixing water, glue and radium powder for the task of painting watch dials, aircraft switches, and instrument dials. The paint is newly inventive and cool so without hesitation she paints her nails and lips with her friends all the while not knowing that this paint that is making them radiant, is slowly killing them. This was the life of Grace Fryer. Today there are trepidations on the topic of radiation from fears of nuclear fallout, meltdowns, or acts of terrorism. This uneasiness is a result of events over the past one hundred years showing the dangers of radiation. Although most accidents today leading to death from radiation poisoning occur from human error or faults in equipment, the incident involving the now named "radium girls" transpired from lack of public awareness and safety laws. (introduce topics of the paper)
The Radium Luminous Material Corporation was founded in 1914 (renamed in 1921 to the United States Radium Corporation) by Dr. Sabin Arnold von Sochocky and Dr. George S. Willis becoming the first U.S. company to produce radioluminescent paint. The paint used by this particular company was the trademarked "Undark", invented by William J. Hammer through mixing radium, zinc sulfide and glue with the help from Marie and Pierre Currie and Henri Becquerel. The corporation hired hundreds of women having no trouble finding employees, being one of the few companies at the time to hire women. Business was surging with the defense contract obtained by filling the demand during World War I by making equipment for soldiers luminescent, enabling reading at night. The company even marketed other i...

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...to establish the tolerance level for radium. The center for Human Radiobiology was established in 1968 with the primary purpose of examining living dial painters.
The events involving the radium girls is significant today because of the awareness brought to the public about the dangers of radium, ending the consumer craze. Public awareness was and still is the most powerful tool of prevention. The corrupted corporations of the early 1900s have been forced to conform to a standard in protecting their employees from occupational exposure thanks to the dial painters who stood up for a better future. Events involving the dial painters have lead to the gathering of scientific information without such events would not be possible. The individual in the United States now has rights as a worker because of sparks set off from the mortars dropped by the radium girls.

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