My "go to" for this era is the conditions found in the US Radium plant, aka The Radium Girls.A short excerpt from:Robert R. JohnsonFor the Love of Pretty ThingsThe Radium Girls and "Dying for Science"In the early twenties, U.S. Ra-dium contracted with a notedHarvard toxicologist, Dr. CecilDrinker, to conduct a study of work-ing conditions at U.S. Radium's NewJersey facilities. Drinker was a highlyrespected scientist who, at the timeof the U.S. Radium operation, washelping to develop the field of indus-trial hygiene. He'd begun a researchfacility at Harvard in the School ofPublic Health, and had studied thepoisonous effects of manufacturing-created dust on the respiration andblood content of workers in the zincindustry. (He eventually concludedthat the culprit was manganese.) Hiscontract with U.S. Radium was hisfirst foray into studying the indus-trial hazards of radiation.Drinker examined the workplacein Orange and observed an environ-ment replete with radium-tainteddust, open containers of highly ra-dioactive paints, poor ventilation,and other problematic conditions.He also took blood samples from theworkers on the shop floor as wellas the scientists working in the ad-joining labs. What he found was di-sastrous. Every one of the workerssuffered from dangerous blood con-ditions. He encountered several casesof radium necrosis; he noticed, too,29that a chemist, Edward Lehman, hadsevere lesions on his hands and arms.Lehman dismissed the idea that Un-dark had anything to do with his le-sions or that there was any threat tohis future health from continued ex-posure to the substance.Lehman would die within theyear.Drinker remarked that Lehman'sattitude of complacency was ram-pant at the company. "There seemedto be an utter lack of realization ofthe dangers inherent in the mate-rial that was being manufactured."U.S. Radium sold the sand-like res-idue of the radium paint process asfiller for children's sandboxes. Whenparents questioned the safety of thesand, von Sochocky assuaged themby telling them that the sand was"most hygienic and... more ben-eficial than the mud of world-re-nowned curative baths."On Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 4:31 PM Reinhardt, Peter <peter.reinhardt**At_Symbol_Here**yale.edu> wrote:--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional secretary at secretary**At_Symbol_Here**dchas.org Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas
With the wisdom of this listserve, I bet a few of you may provide some information on this topic.
A family member is writing a history of a relative who was a Harvard-educated dye chemist at a New England textile firm from 1906 until about 1930. At that time his health began to deteriorate and he "retired" from chemistry. He died in 1936 of liver cancer at 51 years of age.
Both she and I know it is highly speculative to associate his work and poor health, but she wonders what laboratory safety precautions might have been in common industrial use during that time. Do you know?
When I worked at the University of Wisconsin, a retired chemistry professor there told me that his first "gas mask" was purchased from army surplus prior to WW II. In my career, I've helped remodel labs with functional fume hoods dating from the 1920s. Were masks, gloves, hoods, etc. in common use in industrial labs between 1906 and 1930?
Perhaps there is a book that traces this safety history. If so, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
Peter A. Reinhardt
Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety
135 College St., Suite 100
New Haven, CT 06510-2411
--Jeff LewinChemical Safety OfficerCompliance, Integrity, and SafetyEnvironmental Health and SafetyMichigan Technological UniversityHoughton, MI 49931
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