A new book by Kate Moore discusses the story of the “Radium Girls” in the early 20th century, who drove a movement to establish workplace safety standards after they developed devastating diseases as a result of their work. The women who worked in U.S. Radium Corp. factories were told to use a technique called “lip pointing” in which they slipped paint brushes between their lips to get a fine point, then dipped the brushes used to paint glow in the dark clock faces into radium paint, ingesting small amounts of radium each time, all day, every day. After the women fell ill years later, the company tried to dispel their claims that radium caused their tumors and honeycombed bones. The eventual success of the Radium Girls through the use of their own doctors and experts led to agencies like OSHA.
Read more and watch a short video of the victims via NPR’s Marketplace here.