New single year. Uranium was much more

New discoveries are often fascinating to human beings. As a species we constantly search for new things out of curiosity and a need for new findings. Marie Sklodowska Curie, a brilliant Polish physicist, mathematician, and chemist dedicated her life to the discovery of and research of new things. Marie was particularly enthralled by the seemingly “live” energy that was emitted from the element Uranium. The first ever report of rocks form the Earth’s crust that radiated energy was made in 1896 by French physicist and chemist, by the name of Henri Becquerel. He reported that Uranium emitted atomic particles that could pass through metal foil, and create a splatter of light-spots on photographic film. Becquerel’s discovery was controversial at the time; rocks were believed to be nothing more than dead chunks of metal and mineral. Armed with Becquerel’s research, Marie and her husband Pierre Curie (aslo a bright French physicist, mathematician, and chemist) set to work to find out as much as possible about the sizzling energy of Uranium. Marie and Pierre observed and experimented with the Uranium ore. They were able to establish that the Uranium did in fact seem to emit a sizzling energy, but weren’t able to pinpoint the exact source of the rays. Marie hypothesized that since the energy differed from the Becquerel’s descriptions, that there must be another source hidden within the Uranium ore. Marie was right, and in 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of two new elements. Polonium, named after Marie’s home country, and Radium, named simply after the radiation itself. Coming across these elements was no easy task; The Curies were only able to extract about 100 milligrams of Radium from three tons of Uranium ore. Out of the three elements, Radium seemed to be the most promising. Polonium was too intensely active. It burned itself away within a single year. Uranium was much more stable, but it radiated energy quite slow compared to Polonium. Radium appeared to be the mediator of the two. Marie ¬†calculated it’s half life at 1,600 years, and the element could continue a fast and steady rate of energy emission, as it’s intensity was measured at 3,000 times that of Uranium. Shortly after it’s discovery, Radium took the work by storm. It’s behaviors were captivating; not only was it extremely energized, but it also glowed a pale greenish glow when in darkness. William J. Hammer was one person who was impressed by the promises of Radium. In 1902, Hammer left Paris with samples of the Curie’s Radium salts, and headed for the United States. Hammer was set on finding new ways to use this new wonder element, and eventually profit from it. He soon learned that when he mixed the Radium salt with the compound Zinc Sulfide, the reaction made a substance the glowed an intense green glow. He then added glue to him mixture, thickening it and making a type of paint. Hammer called his new paint “Undark”. Undark was only the beginning of a very dark series of events that was about to unfold. In 1917 Dr. Sabin Arnold Von Sochocky and Dr. George S. Willis founded the United States Radium Corporation (USRC) in Orange, New Jersey. On site, the corporation employed over a hundred women to paint watch dials with the luminous Radium paint, Undark. Women were the preferred gender to employ, as their smaller hands enabled them to paint the watch dials with better detail. The women each sat at a desk where they had a jar of Undark, a fine-tip camel hair paintbrush, and a tray of unpainted watch dials. After the women were hired, they were required to complete training with the headmistress, who supervised the particular floor that they would be working on. During this training they were instructed to place the bristles of the brush between their lips and pull the brush out, to create a fine tip before applying the paint to the dial. The new dial painters often asked if using their mouths was really necessary, when they could use a jar of water, or a damp cloth instead, only to have their question quickly shut down. They were told that the reasoning behind using their mouths was that it wasted less of the paint. More of the wonder paint equaled more profit. The incentive to paint numerous dials a day was quite encouraging. The average employee could receive up to two cents per completed watch dial, and if their work was commendable and got noticed they could receive a notable bonus to their weekly paycheck. Even if a dial painter did not receive a bonus, their pay on average was still about five times that of the average factory job. Working at the USRC was the dream job at the time. It was what everybody was talking about. Families would send all their daughters to apply for a job when there was an opening. Girls as young as thirteen worked at the USRC. Getting the job was celebration worthy. Although it was known that Radium was extremely radioactive and dangerous, the women were given no protection or precautionary equipment while painting the dials. Instead the were told that the Undark did not contain enough Radium to prove deadly, and if anything, ingesting the Radium would benefit their health. The dial painters would often observe the corporation’s officials who were aware of the dangers posed by Radium, using lead aprons, and gloves, along with ivory tipped tongs while handling the the Radium or containers of Undark, to avoid exposure. The girls didn’t think much of this; they had already been assured any times by the corporations officials that the Radium was perfectly safe. In 1917, Amelia “Mollie” Maggia began work at the USRC upon its opening, aged 19. Mollie was a very productive dial painter, completing multiple trays of dials each day. She was called an exemplary employee by the corporation’s officials, and was popular among her coworkers. In 1921 however, Mollie began experiencing a sharp pain in her mouth. She consulted a dentist on an pointed out the affected area. The dentist promptly removed a tooth and told her that the pain should get better. Instead, a painful ulcer sprouted where the tooth had been. She decided that if the ulcer did not heal, she would turn to a professional for help. A few weeks passed and the pain had not lessened. Mollie decided to have Dr. Joseph Knef, a dentist specializing in rare and unusual mouth diseases. He examined her and believed her condition to be “Pyorrhea,” an inflammatory disease affecting the surrounding gums and tissue of the mouth. She came back on several occasions, as her condition was not improving. Dr. Knef had more of her teeth extracted in an attempt the stop the infection in its tracks. Instead of stopping the infection, it seemed to rage where the teeth had once been. Horribly swollen, pus filled, ulcers grew in the empty spaces of her gums. This gave Mollie excruciating pain and a very foul odor emitted from her mouth. On one occasion, while Dr. Knef probed the inside of Mollie’s mouth, a piece of her jawbone crumbled when he touched it. Another piece of her jaw became very loose and detached. Dr. Knef was able to easily pull the bone fragment out. Upon examining the new sample, he observed that the bone was very brittle and porous. This was unlike anything Knef had ever seen. It didn’t seem to correlate to any symptoms of any disease he had ever treated, or heard of for that matter. Although he worked extremely hard to find a cure for Mollie’s strange disease, he could not find one. Mollie was in excruciating pain 24/7 and wondered if she was ever going to get better. All Knef could do for her at this point was prescribe her heavy painkillers and sedatives to help her sleep. Knef was at a standing point. Although he had done extensive research and contacted the company in which Mollie was previously employed, all he was able to find was that she was not exposed to phosphorus at work, which was what he had initially believed to have caused her ailment. Having not found a cure fast enough, and on September 12, 1922, she died. The disease had eaten through her jugular vein, and as a result Mollie Maggia had drowned in her own blood, becoming the first dial painter to die. Albina Maggia, one of Mollie’s sisters, stated ‘My elder sister went down to Dr. Knef’s office; we were told after her death that she died of syphilis.’ Syphilis, what a shameful cause of death. Soon after, many other dial painters began experiencing similar symptoms followed by an agonizing death. Irene Rudolph, died on July 15, 1923. According to her death certificate, she had died of phossy jaw (Phosphorus poisoning). Katherine Schaub, Irene’s cousin, who also worked at the USRC, was not as easily convinced. Katherine had remembered that Irene told her doctor that she thought her illness was caused by her work as a dial painter. Irene had explained that she never came into contact with any Phosphorus materials, therefore she thought it would be unlikely to have phossy jaw. Infuriated by the phony cause of death, Katherine filed complaints against the USRC following her cousin’s death at the Orange Department of Labor. Her complaint was never followed up on, so she she decided to take a different course of action. Katherine went to the Orange Department of Health, where an official took her statement. Katherine made sure to put the blame in its proper place, the USRC. Katherine said ‘Still another girl is complaining of trouble. They have to point their brushes with their lips. That is the cause of all this trouble, all this agony. All this death.’ A form was filled out after her visit, and at the end simply read ‘ A foreman at the plant by the name of Viedt said her claims were not true.’ That was the end of that. Grace Fryer was another young woman that was employed by the USRC. Grace had been experiencing symptoms similar to those of the other women, many of which were now deceased, starting in 1922. In 1925, a doctor suggested that Grace’s condition might be linked to her job at the USRC. Exploring this theory, Grace came across a specialist from Columbia University that wanted to examine her. The specialist by the name of Frederick Flynn declared her to be perfectly healthy after the examination. Confused by this, Grace set out to find more answers. Shortly after, it was discovered that Flynn was not licensed to practice medicine, nor was he a doctor at all. Instead he was a toxicologist, paid by the USRC. It was also released that the “colleague” that had been present during the examination, and agreed that Grace was healthy and fit, was actually one of the USRC’s vice presidents. Grace had finally had enough suffering and was enraged by the deceitfulness of the USRC. Grace was going to sue the United States Radium Corporation. Being that the USRC was an extremely successful and wealthy corporation, it took Grace Fryer two years to find an attorney willing to take on her as a client.

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