One of the most infamous tales from our history with radiation is the Radium Girls. These young women worked in watch factories in the early 1900’s, painting watch dials with self-luminous paint, which contained radium. The women were instructed to point the paint brush with their lips to ensure a fine tip.
Celebrities in their own right, the girls would wear their finest dresses to work so the glowing paint spatters would decorate their outfits when they would go out and party after work. However, many of the women became sick with radium poisoning suffering from anemia, broken bones, and deterioration of their jaws.
While tragic as this story is, it holds an important place in our history, teaching us more about the dangers of radiation and establishing more strict occupational health and safety standards.
Radium Girls: Living Dead Women | Headlines and Heroes (loc.gov)