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Video

The "Radium Girls’" fight for workers rights

Ben Hethcoat Nov 28, 2017
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The radium paint, which glowed in the dark, was applied to instruments, dials and watch displays that were shipped off to pilots fighting in World War I.
Heinz Dietrich Suppan/Handout

Some people called them “Ghost Girls.” They made more money than other workers in the United States Radium Corp. factory because of the precision it took to paint glowing numbers on watch dials. When they walked home, they glowed because they spent all day covered in the radium dust. The new element was thought to be safe at the time, but it was slowly killing them. Years after leaving the job, they died in horrible, dramatic ways. Their bones disintegrated, large tumors appeared on different parts of their bodies, and pieces of their jaws and teeth fell out. Radium poisoning had never been observed or diagnosed before, and there was little hope for the “Radium Girls,” except to change the law that had killed them.

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