[ RadSafe ] Radium history question - internal contamination

edmond0033 at comcast.net edmond0033 at comcast.net
Fri Oct 28 12:53:35 CDT 2011

There was a home in Lansdowne, PA of a Physician who used Radium in his 
practice.  As you may know or not that the buildup of Helium in these 
needles caused them ruptured. The house was contaminated.  The Commonwealth 
of PA and the U.S. Public Health Service (under the direction of Adm. John 
Villforth) cleaned it up.  We, the Winchester Engineering and Analytical 
Center (formerly the Northeastern Radiological Health Laboratory), did the 
urine testing for the workers.  No health problem was observed.

Ed Baratta

edmond0033 at comcast.net
-----Original Message----- 
From: J. Marshall Reber
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2011 1:37 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Radium history question - internal contamination

On Oct 28, 2011, at 10:17 AM, Bjorn Cedervall wrote:

> It is certainly clear that some people working with radium during the 
> approx. years 1910-1940 became heavily contaminated with radium and even 
> exhaled radon as a consequence of the radium burden (the dial painters are 
> probably the best known examples, see Claudia Clark's Radium Girls which 
> is great reading for anyone interested in that particular tragedy).

Although I took Robley Evans graduate course at MIT, a good buddy was a 
thesis student of his.  My friend was involved in measuring the radon 
exhaled by many "Radium Girls" who had not developed bone cancers many years 
before.  It was curious that these women seemed to be living longer than the 
normal lifespans of unexposed women.  The real tragedy was the canceling of 
government support for such monitoring while many of the women were still 
alive!  A scientific opportunity was lost that will probably never be 
available again.

After Prof. Evans suggested the dial painters stop pointing their radium 
brushes with their lips such fatal contamination ended.  No other other 
remediation was made:  no monitoring of the work place was done, no cleanup 
was performed, no government agency was involved!

J. Marshall Reber, ScD
165 Berkeley St.
Methuen MA 01844

Tel/Fax: 978-683-6540
Alternate Email: reber at alum.mit.edu

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