Radiology Rewind Fridays: The Radium Girls

Oct 27, 2023

In the early 20th century, a group of young women in the United States found themselves unwittingly embroiled in a terrifying chapter of radiological history. These women, known as the Radium Girls, worked in factories painting watch dials with radium-based paint, a substance that glowed in the dark. 

The job required them to create fine, pointed brush tips by licking the bristles, thus ingesting minute quantities of radioactive radium. The consequence was a nightmare of bone-decaying illnesses, disintegration of their jaws, and systemic radiation poisoning. Their suffering was both painful and protracted.

The Radium Girls’ fight for justice was as harrowing as their illnesses. They battled powerful corporations that initially denied any wrongdoing. Their courageous legal battles brought attention to the hazards of radium exposure and paved the way for improved safety standards in the workplace.

The legacy of the Radium Girls is a sobering reminder of the potential dangers of scientific discovery and the importance of responsible practices in radiology. 

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