Written by London Swaminathan
Date: 20 December 2018
GMT Time uploaded in London – 7-13 am
Post No. 5804

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources including google, Wikipedia, Facebook friends and newspapers. This is a non- commercial blog.

There are 118 known elements and Radium is one of them. Since it emits light it was named Radii (ray). It killed many beautiful girls who worked in the Radium Industry and the famous French scientist Marie Curie (born in Poland). Marie Curies was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. She was the only woman who won the prize twice. She was the only person to get noble Prize with her husband (Pierre Curie).

Radium is a radio active element. It is a silvery metal.

Radium craze gripped America at one time and it killed hundreds of people by cancer. Radio activity from Radium caused cancer and other health problems.

Here is the story of Radium:-

Radium is highly dangerous because of its intense radio activity. It was discovered by Marie and her husband Pierre Curie in 1898.

Soon after its discovery, radium was regarded as a wonder drug. USA saw a radium craze in 1900s. For 30 year,s  all kinds of quack cures were sold.  Cosmos bags, Raithor, Ravigorator  were few names that attracted people in those days. They advertised that it cured cancer, mental illness, arthritis etc.

Those who could not buy expensive radium bought a flask lined with radium. People were asked to drink water stored in it overnight to cure several illnesses. Those who drank that water died of cancer in the following years. Eben Beyers, an American steel magnate , was one of the victims. After his death in 1931, the radium wonder drugs were stopped.

Beautiful girls emitted light!

The dangers came to public notice in a well publicized case of Radium Girls. They sued their former employer US Radium. The company used devious methods to prevent the case coming to trial. In the end the company settled the case out of court, awarding each girl $10,000 , but they all died within a few years. (It may remind us of Bhopal Gas Disaster in India).

Some of the girls from the factory were so contaminated with radium that their hair, faces, hands and arms glowed luminously in the dark!

Radium Dial Wrist Watches

In the first half of the20th century radium was an essential part of medical treatment for cancer. They implanted radium needles in the cancerous parts. Several workers who made such needles died later because of cancer. This element was used in luminous alarm clocks and wrist watches. The girls who worked there painted the dials with their hands. The young girls who worked there had the habit of licking the brush to make the painting sharp. They died of cancer later.

During II World War, precautionary measures were taken and the workers did such jobs by staying behind protective glass screens.

In the words of Marie Curie,

“One of our joys was to go into our work room at night when we perceived the feebly luminous silhouettes of the bottles and capsules containing our products. It was really a lovely sight and always new to us.  The glowing tubes looked like faint fairy light.”

Chemical Qualities

Symbol of Radium – Ra

Atomic Number 88

Melting Point 700 C

Boiling point – 1400 C

Even today it is used in industries, but radiation levels are measured and  human beings are protected. Luminous paints contain radium salts. Luminous dialled watches or clocks are no danger because the rays cannot penetrate the glass cases.

Earth is a naturally radio active planet.  Radium also contributes to the background level of radiation.

Radium is produced naturally during the decay of Uranium and Thorium. 25 radium isotopes are known.

Source book:- Nature’s Building Blocks by John Emsley.

tags-Radium, Marie Curie, Radium watch, beautiful girls


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