Radium was a brand new, cure-all, wonder substance.
Radium cured cancer.
Radium glowed and added flair to anything you desired to put it on.
Doctors endorsed the use of radium.
How could there have been any harm?
On a trip with my Drama class in 10th grade, we saw a play called “Radium Girls” and it caught my attention, the tragedy and helplessness of the women involved. Those women were simply working to make a living. They were instructed to paint with brushes shaped with their lips. They played around with the substance, light-heartedly and had fun.
But they started to fall ill. They had terrible illnesses, rotted teeth, decaying skin and bones.
No one really knew anything about this substance. It had just been discovered and was supposedly a wonderful thing, able to help thousands, if not millions of people.
This goes to show that we need to be careful and we need to be informed. When it comes to anything that is going to be pushed into the public, endorsed by trusted physicians, and used in everyday household materials, we need to know exactly what it is. Or we could be putting ourselves into the danger that these women did. New discoveries should be approached with caution and should not be given the green light to the public until we are sure that it is safe.
When people start to die, it is too late.
“Harvard scientists discovered that the plant was thick with radium dust, the employees coated with it. In the dark, one researcher said, the dial-painters glowed like ghosts. The investigation concluded that the deaths were connected to the factory work. Still the scientists noted that radium had such a safe reputation, they were reluctant to blame it completely.”
There was an obvious danger, with a known cause and people still were not convinced that they needed to stop their use of radium.
I think we learned this, after examining the bones of these women, after seeing the horrific illnesses and deaths they faced.
We learned to be careful.