Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore *****

NIGHTMARES. True-story horror. More nightmares. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore tells the story of poor, young women hired to paint radium (glow-in-the-dark) dials. They received radiation poisoning with no relief or protection from the government or their employers. Radiation poisoning is horrific - pain, disintegrating bones, cancer, and disfigurement.

The company commissioned an early investigation that identified radium poisoning as the problem. The company suppressed the report and instructed the managers to deny any risk and maintain an atmosphere of confidence.
"An atmosphere of confidence is just as contagious as one of alarm and doubt."
Arrayed against the women were more than just the companies making glow-in-the-dark alarm clocks (I had one when I was young.) There was a big pre-FDA medical treatment industry dosing people with radium in many forms. In addition, the military used these dials in many applications from watches for infantry to controls for avionics.

The case dragged on until the women were elated just to have the moral victory that declared the company was at fault. Most received no compensation and no one was punished.

More? The laws didn't really change until Eben Byers, "a world-renowned industrialist and playboy," died of radium poisoning. The Chicago Times wrote:
"The shoot to kill when it comes to cattle thieves in Illinois, and fish and fowl are safeguarded by stringent game laws, but womenfolk come cheap."
Imagine the tobacco cover-up: deceit, disinformation, and delay. The radium industry killed fewer people, but the arrogance and behavior were similar. Well researched and thorough. The author tries to end on a positive note, but the facts prevent this. Read it if you dare.

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