A Most Valuable Accident By Daniel Lang

Daniel Lang was a completely enthralling writer.  Let’s learn a bit about him.

Daniel Lang (writer)

Daniel Lang (May 30, 1913 – November 17, 1981) was an American author and journalist. He worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker from 1941 until his death in 1981.

Daniel Lang was born on the Lower East Side of New York City to Fanny and Noosan Lang, Hungarian Jewish immigrants. He was raised by his mother and half-sister, Bella Cohen. These early years are described in a semi-autobiographical short story, “The Robbers,”by Daniel, and in “Streets, A Memoir of the Lower East Side,” written by Bella.

By the time Lang reached high school age, he and his mother had moved to Brooklyn, where he attended Erasmus Hall High School, graduating in 1929. Following high school, he worked for several years, then entered the University of Wisconsin on scholarship, receiving his BA in 1936.

After graduation, Lang worked as a government Works Progress Administration sociologist in the South. His life ambition was to write, however, and he soon found a job at The New York Post. During this time he met Margaret Altschul, a reporter for the New York Journal-American, whom he married in 1942. They were married for 39 years, living and raising their three daughters in New York City.

Recalling Lang’s appearance at the New Yorker, former New Yorker editor William Shawn wrote, “He arrived in our offices one day in 1941, shortly before the United States entered the Second World War, with an impressive sheaf of clippings of articles he had written for the New York Post. He was immediately taken onto the staff and soon wrote his first Reporter-at-Large piece on the British American Ambulance Corps.

Lang served as war correspondent for the New Yorker in Italy, France and North Africa. Following the war, he observed and reported on atomic testing. Problems raised by nuclear testing concerning the moral responsibility of scientists remained a keen interest and the topic of many articles over the years. During the Vietnam War era, he became absorbed by the ethical choices raised by this conflict and was one of the first reporters to expose military atrocities against the Vietnamese civilian population. Toward the end of his writing career, he interviewed aging Germans, former Flakhelfer, about their role in the Third Reich, returning to his focus on how individuals can become implicated in evil through denial and the refusal to acknowledge reality.

Many of his New Yorker articles were collected and published in book form and translated into various languages including Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish and Japanese.

William Shawn described Lang’s work in this way: “He was one of the most steadfast and talented of our reportorial writers.[3] His writings invariably had moral weight. He was a student of the conscience. Implicit in every piece he wrote was a controlling idea, but he never lapsed into abstraction. He tried very hard to understand the people he wrote about, and far more often than not he succeeded.”

And in the words of author John Hersey, “In all his years of writing, Dan never touched…a trivial subject. In his person he was extraordinarily modest, as writers go, but the reach of his mind as an author could not have been more ambitious. As he grew from piece to piece, he stubbornly and courageously manifested that his job as a writer in the atomic age was nothing less than to address the moral consciousness of humankind…. But the tone of his work was never inflated or too grand, as such subjects and themes might have threatened to make it. The power of his voice came paradoxically from its quietness. He approached our minds and hearts very simply, in a storyteller’s way, through tales about people faced with the great dilemmas of our time.”

In addition to journalism, Lang wrote poetry, children’s literature, short stories and an opera libretto.

His New Yorker article, “The Bank Drama,”[6] reported on a hostage situation in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973, from which psychiatrist Nils Bejerot coined the phrase “Stockholm syndrome.”

Read More HERE


But this article by Daniel Lang that most caught my attention was his in-depth exposé of the Radium Girls.  I had done a few articles on the issue of radium which I will list below.  This is an educational compare/contrast of material.



Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

We lost Daniel Lang forty years ago.

A Most Valuable Accident By Daniel Lang

Over the years, many people have served as guinea pigs in potentially lethal scientific experiments—some of them voluntarily and others, as in the days of Nazi medical research, involuntarily.  In either case, it is safe to assume, most of them realized that their bodies were being experimented with.  Today, however, there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Americans who are just learning that more than a quarter of a century ago they underwent a hazardous experiment that has since turned out to be immensely useful.

Radium – Periodic Table of Videos

This singular group of guinea pigs is made up of people who, for one reason or another, swallowed radium in varying amounts at a time of the First World War and on into the thirties, when the possible side effects of that highly radioactive element—twenty times as damaging as strontium 90 that nowadays is falling on crops, pastures, and reservoirs—were widely and sometimes disastrously miscalculated. 

A good many of them are middle-aged and elderly women who, as girls, had the job of applying radium paint to the figures on watch dials and found their work went faster and more accurately if they licked their paintbrushes to a point, and most of the rest are old-time sufferers from arthritis, gout, and similar ailments who received radium injections, inhaled emanations from radium solutions, or swallowed medicines containing radium—a sovereign remedy in the eyes of many doctors of the period.

At the time, something was known about the effects of external radium radiation on the human body—the bad effects and the beneficial ones, such as in the treatment of cancer.  But very little is known about the behavior of radioactive substances that had been taken internally.  Such substances, it was supposed, were rapidly and entirely eliminated.  Nobody had any idea that radium could be retained in the body for years, still radioactive and lodging in the bone, which it gradually deformed or destroyed.  (“Boneseekers,” experts today call substances like radium and strontium 90 that are absorbed by the bones; certain other radioactive substances are absorbed by the body tissue.)  Nor was anybody aware of the fact that radioactive matter could affect the formation of blood in the bone marrow, causing leukemia, anemia, and other disorders.  

In the early nineteen-twenties, when a number of the dial-painters fell ill and died, one after another, their deaths were attributed to any of several common diseases or to mysterious causes.  These girls were probably the world’s first victims of internal emissions of a radioactive substance, but only gradually was the evidence pieced together that what killed them was radium. 

As the years went on, more and more people, notable and obscure, succumbed to the effects of radium, for while these may show up swiftly, they may also show up slowly. 

Dr. Sabin A von Sochocky

In 1928, at the age of forty-five, Sabin A von Sochocky, an MD and a Ph.D. who originated one widely used radium-paint formula, died of radiation injuries—external and internal.  (Writing of the wonders of radium in the January, 1921, issue of the American Magazine, Dr. von Sochocky, who was an amateur artist, had extolled radium-treated oil paints. 


Here is Dr. von Shochocky’s article in The American Magazine.





“Pictures painted with radium look like any other pictures in the daytime, but at night they illuminate themselves and create an interesting and weirdly artistic effect,” he declared.  “This paint would be particularly adaptable for pictures of moonlight or winter scenes, and I have no doubt that some day a fine artist will make a name for himself…by painting pictures which will be unique, and particularly beautiful at night in a dark or semidarkened room.”) 

In 1934, Mme. Marie Curie, who, with her husband, Pierre Curie, had won a Nobel Prize thirty-one years earlier for discovering the metallic element, died as a result of radium injuries.  And within the last twelve months two dial painters who put aside their brushes thirty-five years ago have died because of the radium they swallowed.

Many of the people—dial painters and others—who ingested radium back in those days are alive, however, and a little over a year ago the Atomic Energy Commission embarked on a systematic search for them, as part of its program of amassing all available information about the effect of radio-activity on human beings.  One phase of the Commission’s program deals with the ingestion of radioactive substances, and here the survivors of the reckless days of radium consumptions are known to make enlightening, if sometimes unfortunate, exhibits.  A number of these survivors have been under observation for years—principally at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Illinois, which is administered by the University of Chicago. 

In 1931, for instance, thirty-one schizophrenic inmates of the Elgin State Hospital, in Elgin, Illinois, received injections of radium salts, which doctors hoped would restore their sanity, and scientists of the Argonne Laboratory have been studying sixteen of them since the forties.  But it was with the purpose of collecting a statistically significant sample that the Commission hit upon its idea of a large-scale hunt. 

Chapter 3. Human Radiation Experiments Associated With DOE and Its Predecessors

Read More HERE

The job of tracking down and conducting studies of the survivors has been farmed out to three research contractors—MIT, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the State Department of Health of New Jersey, where most of the dial painters lived and had their jobs.—and they have been proceeding steadily, if quietly, picking up clues where they can. 

Around 1930, to take one example, many Americans were drinking a radioactive patent tonic called Radithor, which its manufacturer described as “perpetual sunshine” and a therapeutic agent for gout, high blood pressure, neuritis, and declining sexual powers. 

Last October, MIT placed the following ad in the New York Sunday papers: “University research center looking for persons who received radium injections or drank radium solutions such as ‘Radithor’ before 1935.”  The response included not only a gratifying number of letters but a case of Radithor that a woman in Pennsylvania had kept in her cellar for more than two decades. 

Exactly how many people ingested radium is unknown, but each of them now has an abnormally high “body burden,” as scientists call the amount of radioactive material in an individual’s system.  To date, the three contractors have located about four hundred survivors, and they expect to find several hundred more, though the job isn’t an easy one.  Some survivors are unaware of the fact that they are being sought and others would just as soon ignore it.  More than a few of these, it is suspected, will not divulge their condition for fear of social ostracism, and there are those who see no earthly use in coming forward, since little could be done for them if their body burdens were found to be dangerously high. 

The one thing that can stop a radioactive substance from emitting its rays is the passage of time, and it takes sixteen hundred and twenty-two years for any given bit of radium to lose half of its original intensity.  (Strontium 90 loses half of its intensity every thirty years.) 

The sole purpose, then, that the survivors can serve by making themselves known to the A.E.C. is to provide the data that has been contained in their irradiated bodies for decades (much longer that the data provided by the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who, in any case, offer a different sort of evidence, since their radiation injuries came primarily from external sources), and an exceedingly worth-while purpose this is proving to be. 

The like of these individuals, indeed, may never be encountered again unless the rate of fallout keeps increasing indefinitely, for it has been estimated that, on the average, they took in several hundred times as much radioactive material as anybody has thus far ingested because of fallout. 

“All in all, this is a strange project,” one researcher told me.  “Something that happened far in the past is going to give us a look far into the future.  Why, when these people took in their radium, there was no such thing as strontium 90, and yet they may help us determine today how much of it children can safely consume.  The way I see it, we’re trying to follow up a wholly unintentional experiment that has taken on incalculable value.”

The followup is still in its early stages, and the scientists do not expect to come up with statistically reliable results for two or three years.  One thing that they are willing to say now is that by no means all of the people who swallowed radium appear to have suffered ill effects; it is assumed, though the reasons are still unknown, that these people retain much less of the stuff than the rest did, or else had a peculiar resistance to it.  

Among other things, the investigators are seeking to ascertain at what level and in what ways internal radiation affects illness rates and life expectancy; whether, contrary to current thinking, it passes through the placental barrier to offspring; and to what extent it produces changes in the genes.  It these questions are answered. It will not be the first time that the New Jersey factory girls have furnished the government with important information.  Their misfortunes may indeed have influenced the outcome of the last war. 

It was Merril Eisenbud, Manager of the A.E.C.’s New York Operations Office, which is headquarters of the Commission’s National Monitoring (Fallout) System, who told me about this. 

“Historically speaking, the New Jersey cases and the others, coming when they did, were a most valuable accident,” he said.  “If they had occurred twenty years later, we might have gone into our wartime atomic-bomb project without knowing how Boneseekers do their work.  Our Manhattan District might have proved to be a tremendous booby trap.  We might not have foreseen the inter-emitter problem in all its seriousness, and even if we had, we might have been five years arguing about it.  With the evidence before us, however, there was no room for debate.  It hadn’t been for those dial painters, the project’s management could have reasonably rejected the extreme precautions that were urged on it—the remote-control gadgetry, the dust-dispersal systems, and the filtering of exhaust air—and the thousands of Manhattan District workers might well have been, and might still be, in great danger.”

This time, when the A.E.C. study is completed, the dial painters’ experience will have implications for hundreds of millions of people all over the world, and the results of the study   will be inter-national property.  They will go not only to the United States Public Health Service, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies that, along with the Commission on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, to the World Health Organization, and to all member governments of the United Nations.  Then this study of a relative handful of people who had so curious a medical adventure will be pondered by physicists, hematologists, radiologists, pathologists, toxicologists, and other experts in every corner of the globe.

It was in 1915 that Dr von Sochocky devised his formula for luminous paint—a yellowish zinc sulphide compound containing radium.  Later on, it was discovered that a mesothorium—a radioactive isotope of radium, and considerably less expensive—could do the job adequately, and sometimes it was used, either by itself or in combination with radium. 

As it turned out, whether a dial painter used radium or mesothorium was to make a greater difference. For while the latter is the more immediately damaging of the two, it loses half of its intensity every six and seven-tenths years. 

At any rate, in 1915 Dr. von Sochocky and some associates founded the Radium Luminous Materials Company and soon thereafter established it in a two-story factory at the corner of Alden Street and High Street in Orange, New Jersey.  Early in 1916, the company, which presently was to change its name to United States Radium Corporation, contracted with watch manufacturers to paint their dials. 

It was a novel but fairly simple kind of job, requiring not much more than a deftness in handling a paintbrush, and teen-age girls, for the most part, were employed to do it, on a piecework basis.  As time went on, the company attracted new business—painting light pulls and crucifixes, for instance—and after the United States went to war, the girls painted instrument faces for submarines and aircraft. Other companies—in Connecticut, Illinois, and New York City—were doing the same sort of work, but the United States Radium Corporation was the leader in the field; at times it employed as many as two-hundred and fifty girls, and over the years it employed a total of more than eight hundred.  

The girls went about their work on the second floor of the Orange plant, in a large room they called the studio, because it had huge windows that let in the north light.  Seated at long, heavy work benches that served them as worktables, the girls dipped camel’s-hair brushes into crucibles of yellow paint, licked them into shape, swallowed a little radium, and added to their body burdens forever.

Early in the nineteen-twenties, the first few mysterious cases of illness and bone injury began to occur among the Orange dial painters.  Some doctors in the neighborhood ascribed them to conventional causes—bacterial infections, venereal disease, and so on—but several physicians were more alert that that.  

RADIUM GIRLS Trailer (2020) Joey King, Drama Movie

One of them was the late Dr. Harrison S. Martland, the medical examiner of Essex County, in which Orange is situated—a now celebrated practitioner and researcher, for whom the Martland Medical Center, in Newark, has been named.  In September, 1924, Dr. Martland got a clue to what might be wrong when, while reading the current issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, his eye fell on a footnote to an article on ostomyclitis of the jaw.  The footnote said that one patient, a dial painter, was suffering from “radium jaw,” and went on to suggest that her complaint might be occupational origin. 

To the best of Dr. Martland’s knowledge, this was the first time such a suggestion had been made, and he was impressed by it, particularly since the author was a noted oral surgeon—Dr. Theodor Blum, of New York, who was an M.D. as well as a D.D.S.  Dr. Blum’s diagnosis of “radium jaw” had followed an examination of a twenty-four-year-old girl who was referred to him by a puzzled New Jersey dentist.  “A good look at her mouth and I knew I had never seen what she had before.” Dr. Blum, who is now seventy-five, and still practicing, told me recently.  “Clinically, I couldn’t diagnose a thing, but she told me where she worked, and I surmised that her jaw had been invaded—yes, and pervaded—by radioactivity.  And so I made my suggestion in that paper Dr. Martland read.  He went on from there.”

Spurred on by Dr. Blum’s hunch, Dr. Martland inspected the plant in Orange, examined stricken dial painters, and sought the advice of colleagues—among them Dr. von Sochocky, who had left the company and now teamed up with Martland.  Martland gave years of study to the new occupational disease. But before the end of 1924 he and his associates were certain that the key to it was the paint. 

By this time, nine girls had died.  Their family doctors had attributed the deaths to syphilis, Vincent’s angina, and anemia, among other diseases, and none of them had conducted autopsies.  When further deaths occurred, Martland conducted autopsies himself.  Among his first, in 1925, was that of the company’s chemist, a man who had handled unsealed Radium and mesothorium and had inhaled radioactive emanations, as well as contaminated dust particles; his body was found to contain fourteen micrograms (or fourteen-millionths of a gram) of radioactive materials, including to and one tenth micrograms of radium—twenty-one times the maximum amount now considered.  Martland found that by using this man’s bones as the source of radiation he could take pictures similar to X-rays.

Martland and his co-workers learned a great deal about how radioactive matter works inside the human body.  They discovered that the matter, entrenching themselves in the bone and giving off radiations that travelled at between one-twelfth and one-twentieth the speed of light, could cause an attrition of physical resources that sooner or later was beyond repair, and they observed the various diseases that could arise in the bone and blood.  And, presently, Martland found that the initial effect of the particles was to stimulate the body into defending itself by manufacturing an extraordinary number of red blood cells.  These gave the victim the illusion of being in excellent health, but the body could not keep up with such defensive demands year after year, and in the end disease usually took over.  It was probably this transient stimulation that gave rise to the legend of the healing powers of radium.

Martland was not without scientific opposition, some of it directed at him by Frederick B. Flinn, an assistant professor of physiology specializing in industrial hygiene at Columbia.  Flinn made three studies of the dial-painting situation for the United States Radium Corporation.  His first report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association for December 1926, stated flatly that “an industrial hazard does not exist in the painting of luminous dials.”

Censoring of Reports

Read about Flinn’s transgressions here:

The Secret Killer of the Waterbury Radium Girls

Read More HERE

In reaching this judgment, the industrial-hygiene expert stressed that the Orange cases were the only ones that had come to light in any dial-painting factory, and speculated on whether that particular plant might have been plagued by a bacterial infection.  But in May, 1927, when his second report appeared, he was not so sure.  Having examined two stricken dial painters employed in a Waterbury, Connecticut, plant, he had modified his position.

“In view of the evidence in front of me, I feel that radium is partially if not the primary cause of the pathological condition described,” he wrote.  

In his final report, made public in January, 1928, Flinn declared that he had been led “to suspect that radioactive material is at the bottom of the trouble even if the mechanism by which it is caused is not altogether clear and not previously suspected.”

Martland took care of that “not previously suspected” shortly thereafter, in quite untechnical language, in an article in the February 1929, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Not only were these cases suspected…in 1925, two and one half years before these statements made by Flinn,” he wrote, “but the disease was accurately described in all its features by me and my associates.”

By then, the dial-painting affair had become public property and the United States Radium Corporation was being maligned on every hand.  Indeed, it had become the defendant in a highly publicized suit brought against it by five injured girls who sought a quarter of a million dollars each.  The litigation, which took place in New Jersey Court of Chancery, began in the spring of 1927, and it turned out to be a marathon affair, in which the opposing lawyers sparred shrewdly over fugitive details without ever quite acknowledging the original ignorance that had entrapped both plaintiffs and defendant.

The defense attorney argued that s the New Jersey statute of limitations put an end to liability in damage suits after two years, the girls, who had previously, had no case.  On the contrary, the girls’ lawyer said, the statute applied not to the original contracting of the disease but to the recent onset of its symptoms.

Moreover, he went on, unless the defense council quit stalling, the girls, all of whom were dying, might never benefit from the restitution rightfully due them.

The company was not going to forfeit its day in court, the defense counsel retorted—not when its good name had been impugned up and down the land.

As the case dragged on, the company’s chances of winning it diminished steadily.  The very presence of the girls in the courtroom was enough to account for that.  They were young and destroyed—disfigured by radium jaw, crippled by rotten spines or shrunken legs—and all of them had to be assisted or actually carried to the witness stand; one of them could not raise her right arm to take the oath.  As the case progressed, more dial painters were hit by disease, joining what one newspaper called “the Legion of the Doomed.”  The Legion, Martland indicated, might be larger than anyone thought.  

“Many [dial painters] may have gone to other towns and died without physicians’ being aware of what caused death,” he testified.  “A physician not acquainted with radium poisoning might treat such patients for rheumatism or God knows what.”

His words were corroborated when the body of a dial painter who had died five years before—she was the sister of two plaintiffs—was exhumed from an Orange cemetery and was found to contain forty-eight and four-fifths micrograms of radium; syphilis had been recorded as a contributory cause of her death.

The proceedings in the Court of Chancery were a grim topic of conversation everywhere.  In France, Mme. Curie publicly extended her sympathy to the girls.

“I would be only too happy to give any aide that I could,” she said, and advised them to eat raw calf’s liver to counteract anemia.

A Russian doctor suggested a lead solution.  Scores of nostrums were mailed to the girls from all over the world, and one of the doctors treating them deplored these gestures of good will.

“They [the girls] are swamped with all kinds of literature from quacks and faith-cure specialists who do more harm than good,” he complained to a newspaperman.

Welfare groups throughout the country took up the cause.  In a speech at the Workmen’s Circle Lyceum, in Newark, during the Presidential campaign of 1928, Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate, said that dial painters were getting nowhere with their case because

“every legal device is employed by the corporation and insurance company’s lawyers to cheat them of this compensation.”

The press was strongly on the side of the plaintiffs.  Time then a fledgling enterprise, said,

“Newspapers took these five dying women to their ample bosoms.  Heartbreaking were the tales of their torture.”

The Orange Courier declared, “Edgar Allen Pie in all his weird stories never utilized a theme more harrowing that that of death by radium.”

Probably the single most influential editorial appeared in the New York World On May 10, 1928.

Assailing the company for having “barricaded” itself behind the statute of limitations, the editorial reviewed the case to date, and then concluded, “We have set down the facts as soberly and as coolly as we know how to do it,  Having done that, we confidently assert that this is one of the most damnable travesties of justice that has ever come to our attention.

On June 4, 1928, after thirteen months, the case was settled out of court.  A public-spirited federal judge [rumor has it he owned stock], William Clark, who had no official connection with the litigation, had volunteered his services as a mediator and had quickly worked out an agreement.  The company agreed to pay legal costs of twenty thousand dollars, and to pay each of the dial painters a lump sum of ten thousand dollars, an annual pension of six hundred dollars, all past medical expenses connected with her injury, and all future expenses provided that she consented to periodic examinations by a board of three physicians, who were to certify whether or not she was rid of her radioactivity.  The terms were no sooner announced than the company lawyers sent a public thank-you note to Judge Clark, saying,

“You, as a private citizen, have intervened and asked the United States Radium Corporation to consider the matter solely in its humanitarian aspect, irrespective of whether or not it is liable…  The company, in accepting your suggestions, is actuated solely by the humanitarian considerations which you have urged.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer commented, “I am glad to find that… members of the Radium Corporation have been actuated by humanitarian motives.”

The girls’ own reactions were mixed.  One considered the award far too small.

“I signed the agreement because the others seemed to think the terms were all right.” She said.

Another welcomed the money because it would enable her to visit a religious shrine in Quebec.  “God will cure me there, but even if he doesn’t, I want to go,” she said.

Two days after the settlement, the Newark Star Ledger reported that “the girls have been advised to invest the money in some reliable securities that will pay 6% interest.  Whether or not they acted on this advice os unknown; they are all dead.

In 1932, the American Medical Association removed radium for internal administration from its listing of new remedies.   Radium continued to be, and still is, applied to watch dials—but only with virtually foolproof precautions.

As for Martland, he was pleased but hardly smug about his accomplishment.  In a paper he wrote for a professional publication about his long campaign in orange, he said, “The great trouble with most investigations is that they always start after the harm has been done.”

A few months ago, having followed the A.E.C.’s study of the long-range effects of exposure to radium, I began spending some time with the research team provided by the New Jersey State Department of Health.  The team has set up its headquarters in a small building at 11 Washington Street, in West Orange, and the search in that area is on in full force, I was told by the head of the team, a young radiation physicist named Lester A. Barrer, who has been working for the Department since 1956.

Fortunately, he said, a number of the surviving New Jersey dial painters—women now in their fifties and sixties, and most of them in modest circumstances—have remained in the area, and some of them live within sight of the old plant at Alden and High, which has been converted into a plastics factory.

Barrer has prevailed on the New Jersey State Police to lend him one of its special investigators, and this operative has picked up the thread of more than one apparently broken trail.  The detective is Stanley Prusek, a strapping fellow with an earnest manner.

“Missing persons, that’s the deal here,” Prusek told me.  “These dial painters are a tough proposition, because so many years have rolled by since anyone cared where they were.  Right now, for instance, I’ve got a lot of clues to one case, but according to one clue she’s dead, and according to another she’s living in the Jersey shore area and she’s single, and somebody else says she married twenty years ago and moved to California.

The search has run up against even more serious obstacles than that particular one.  In 1929, for example, the federal Department of Labor conducted an investigation of radium-poisoning cases; the names and data it gathered might be extremely useful now, but the files were destroyed in 1944 as a routine space-saving measure.

Barrer has been trying to locate former executives of the Jersey factory who might conceivably know where a payroll list is lurking, but he has had no luck; he is somewhat consoled by the fact that in those days, when a pay envelope contained cash, not a check, many employees didn’t care whether the paymaster had their name and address straight as long as they had received their wages. 

“If Social Security had existed then, we’d have access to a pile of accurate records today,” Barrer told me.

In the absence of such records, he and his associates are using whatever is available.  They are poring over old newspaper files for the names of dial painters mentioned in a spate of articles that were printed when the first strange deaths of dial painters were recorded.

Thousands of marriage records are being gone over by clerks of the New Jersey Vital Statistics Registration Program in an effort to learn the present names of some of the girls, and voter’s registration lists, realty records and files of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are also being combed.  Death certificates are being checked not only to preclude vain hunts but to learn presumed causes of death.  One certificate describes the death last autumn of a fifty-eight-year-old former dial painter, whose autopsy Barrer attended, as an “accident,” giving as its cause “generalized radium intoxication.”

Public appeals by the Department of Health have brought more names.  Their number may be higher, Barrer is inclined to think, if some former dial painters didn’t take it for granted that their employment was too brief to make them of any value to the study.

“That factor isn’t necessarily important,” he told me.  “A good deal of radium can be ingested in a short time, and anyway it isn’t just injurious amounts we want to learn about.  We’re equally interested in seeing how much people have absorbed safely.”

Several of the women he has interviewed have given hi paintbrushes and crucibles of paint they took from the plant, sometimes in order to paint the numerals of a boy friend’s watch—a real treat in the days when artificial phosphorescence was a novelty.

He is delighted to receive the brushes and crucibles; he has them analyzed to see whether they contain radium or mesothorium or both, and this is a great help in determining the subject’s type of body burden.

One sixty-year-old woman presented Barrer with a tooth of hers, extracted years ago as a result…

The rest is here

I wanted to give you the tremendous assessment of the Radium Girls and their trial as depicted by Daniel Lang.  His research was amazing.

Much of the corporate and medical persecution is also suffered by those of us who are vaccine-injured.  The parallels and persecution are similar and severe.

Listed below are the other radium articles I’ve put together:





The Radium Girls.  How Their Stories Compare to Stories of the Vaccine-Injured.




Radithor: Owner of the company and Head of the laboratories was William J. A. Bailey, a dropout from Harvard College who was not a medical doctor.


Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


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The Netherlands

or sent by email to otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int

or sent by facsimile to +31 70 515 8555.

The more of us who do this; the more they can’t ignore us.

One thought on “A Most Valuable Accident By Daniel Lang

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  1. I stumbled on the bill that does not mandate animal testing. It is stated in the bill that human testing is best Joyce. Just saying you will enjoy the video. I wonder how many people will order those striped outfits? Warm and fuzzy in my heart. Thank you for being on the same wave link. I just backed up your post why it is necessary to torture us….so hey get with the program Joyce….laughing so hard I am crying.


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