Last year, when I began reading about and researching the plight of the Radium Girls this scripture came to mind, “And now behold, I … do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes … ” (Mormon 5:8). I wondered what a dramaturg could do to counteract such circumstances? The rest of the verse answered my question, “… but I, knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops—” (Mormon 5:8). So, I’m shouting what I learned about U.S. Radium Corp (and other villains) upon the housetops … or wherever your internet is coming from.
Is There an Element of Radium Girls in Your Backyard?
I’ve compiled a short list of the major atrocities that the company, U.S. Radium Corp, got away with. We can thank the supporters of the Radium Girls (The NJ Consumer’s League) and the girls’ sacrifice, instead of taking bribes to be quiet, because we are now more aware and can try to enforce laws against these.
US RADIUM CORP, CRIMES IN THE NAME OF WAR:
The Radium Girls were not only the victims of radiation poisoning. The U.S. Radium Corp knowingly, and with malice aforethought, tried to undermine the victims with insidious, underhanded practices. Profits may have driven their decision making, but publicly, they used the excuse of helping to support our troops in the war efforts of WWI and WWII.
- Protecting their all-male corporate executives and lab workers with protective clothing and leaded barriers.
- Instructing all dial painters in a practice called “Lip, Dip, Paint” (using their lips to get a finer point on the paint brush), although the scientist who invented the glow in the dark paint discouraged this practice.
- Doctoring a negative report by the Harvard scientist team that the company had hired, which had indicated that the radioactive dust was so prevalent that you could see it as dust on the floor and furnishings, as well as down to the undergarments of the workers.
- Turning in the doctored report into the Journal of Medicine as well as the NJ Bureau of Statistics and Labor.
- Hiring a scientist (who sold radioactive water as a cure-all) to give a false “all clear” report inaccurately describing that the workers’ area was safe.
- Disguising their Vice President and an unlicensed medical practitioner as doctors who examined the girls and falsified medical reports that stated the dying girls were in better health than the average citizen.
- Paying doctors, dentists, and coroners to falsely attribute the signs of radiation poisoning to syphilis (hoping to quiet the girls and their families by tainting them with a sexual disease diagnosis.)
- Paying doctors and dentists not to share personal medical records of radiation poisoning with those patients.
- Paying hush money bribes (as little as $26.00) to victims, or their living family members, if they would sign legal documents binding them not to bring suit.
- Paying key witness staff to take paid European vacations for 12-18 months so they would be unavailable and therefore postpone the trial in hopes that the girls would die before the trial began and the suit would be dropped.
- To add insult to injury, and with time running out for the five dying Radium Girls, they were pressured to reach an out-of-court settlement of $10K each (equivalent to $142K in 2018) by family (who needed money to cover medical and funeral costs), by locals (who thought them ungrateful to quit a paying job as the Depression Era began), and by the Federal Judge who acted as the settlement negotiator (who was later discovered to have owned stock in U.S. Radium Corp).
US RADIUM CORP, POST TRIAL (1928) UPDATES:
- 1930’s: After the infamous trial, the U.S. Radium Corp convinced state and federal courts that they no longer had any more funds to disburse, by changing their name, moving across state lines, and disbursing funds to subsidiary companies.
- 1947: U.S. Radium Corp continued to have workers paint the dials by hand until 1947.
- 1978: They continued to manufacture radiation-painted watches for the military till 1978.
- 1980’s: Factory sites (which dumped the hazardous waste directly outside the buildings) were deemed too dangerous to leave the radioactive waste out in the open, affecting land up to a 1 hour walk from each factory and being washed down the drains by employees using toilets, washing their hands, and washing equipment.
US RADIUM CORP, YOUR HOME TOWN
You may be thinking, “At least this isn’t happening in my backyard?” U.S. Radium Corp (1917-2005, now, Safety Light Corporation) not only contaminated their workers, but the neighborhood and waterways downstream from factories in five states.
- 1997-2005: The EPA began directing taxpayer dollars into a project called “SuperFund Sites” to put the dangerous substances into hazardous waste containers and ship it across the country to hazardous waste facilities.
- 2005: The New Jersey plant waste ended up just 100 miles from BYU in White Mesa, UT, a Ute Indian Reservation
But wait … they’re not the only manufacturing companies in the United States who use radium, nor is radium the only source linked to cancer and other unhealthy and/or deadly disease.
- Superfund Site: The EPA identifies unhealthy levels of hazardous waste emanating from industrial locations, which are labeled Superfund Sites. Billions of taxpayers’ money is used to clean, transport, and then store the hazardous waste materials … in someone else’s hometown.
- Brownfields: Other locations that ‘naturally’ store unhealthy and/or deadly hazardous waste that emanate waste into the air, or the soil, or run off into local waterways are called Brownfields.
Note that the industries are often allowed to continue manufacturing the products and are not held completely fiscally responsible for the clean up.
- As of this year, only 412 of the 1338 Superfund sites have been cleaned up and 53 more have been identified.
- The EPA estimates that there are more than 450,000 Brownfields in America.
- To view a map of Brownfields and Superfund Sites and other Environmental Incidents in the your zip code click here.
Is There an Element of Radium Girls Currently in Society?
Stephanie Breinholt, director of BYU’s 2018 production of Radium Girls, hopes that the cast, crew, and audience don’t think of this play as a past event, but of the present day.
US RADIUM CORP, (2018) UPDATES
Safety Violations (May 2018)
The hazardous waste company in White Mesa, UT has been under condemnation from the EPA for safety violations for the last two years! The company has requested to take in additional tons of hazardous waste and expand their hazardous waste property up to 80 more acres, but a protest march in May stopped them temporarily.
Wild Fire Nears Superfund Site (September 2018)
Utah wildfires in September of this year came so close to a hazardous waste collection site, that the firefighters were not allowed within 5 miles of the site. Unfortunately, the hazardous waste collection site is within 3 miles of the White Mesa Community Center.
Company Continues Under Alias (November 2018)
The company has changed names four times over the last century and is now called “Safety Light Corp.” It is modernized with a website and has a LinkedIn account for their Radiation Inspector. They manufacture the glowing exit signs for industrial use, such as factories, theatres, and airplanes.
Professor Breinholt also wants to direct our thoughts beyond radium and other consumer products to contemplate social mores and organizations. Some harmful products, practices, and issues of the past are now known. We now know the birth defects associated with Fen-Phen. And in retrospect we now admit to past wrongs of the US Government: Founding Fathers were slave owners of African Americans (1776-1863); Trail of Tears (1838); Wounded Knee Massacre of Native Americans (1890) and other massacres; Ludlow Massacre of women and children at a Labor Camp (1914) and other government sanctioned labor dispute killings; Japanese internment camps (1942-1945); No Gun Ri Massacre of Korean civilians (1950); My Lai Massacre of Vietnamese civilians (1968); Watergate (1972); Blackwater Massacre of Middle Eastern civilians (2007); etc.
Yet what about today? Fen-Phen has tweaked their formula and is once again on the market as a dietary supplement without FDA approval! Although transparency is the latest watchword, the US Government continues to be fallible today: Manifest Destiny means Native Americans and Latinos are dispossessed of their property (1776-present); non-consent human experimentation with radiation, disease, etc. (1902-present); Native Latinos deported south of US border (1932-present); Gitmo Bay and other overseas black sites perform human rights violations (2002-present); etc. Are we done yet? It may take years to realize the impact of some consumer products and issues, however, here is a short list of lawsuits and issues from 2018. Which of these are you aware of?
Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder
For years, Johnson and Johnson hid a known link between talc and ovarian cancer. Interestingly enough, the founder of their company is buried just a few minutes’ drive from the U.S. Radium Corp factory in NJ. Johnson and Johnson just lost a $4.69 billion dollar lawsuit!
Boy Scout Neckerchief Slides
This year, 2018, the BSA is recalling thousands of neckerchief slides. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled neckerchief slides, take them away from children and return them to any BSA distributor.
3M, Dupont and Teflon
The companies of Dupont (Teflon Pans) and Scotch/3M (Scotch Guard, and other useful office products) use a hazardous waste product they created called PTFE, Polytetrafluoroethylene. Blood samples from American soldiers in the 1950’s were free of PTFE, yet now it is found in 98% of humans world wide. PTFE is linked to six types of cancers and fetus deformities in their pregnant employees who worked with PTFE. Dupont also illegally dumped their hazardous waste into the Ohio river contaminating their town and towns downstream. Dupont has paid over $670 million in over 3,550 lawsuits and still counting! Don’t worry, our Lobby Display is conscientiously PTFE FREE!
Fast Food Packaging
Next time you want to order fast food, ask for it to be put on a lid. If you thought you could avoid all the dangers of fast food, (extra salt and fat) via portion control and exercise, you would be missing a more deadly compound. You may already know not to reheat your styrofoam take-home box in the microwave. However, were you aware that the chemicals in the packaging are now proven to transfer onto the food? The longer the edible item stays wrapped in the packaging, the more the cancer causing chemicals are absorbed. What is worse is that when the FDA exposed the public to this danger, food wrapping companies simply changed company and product names. It is up to the FDA to test them at their discretion; in the meantime, they’re being used to serve up food in a fast food joint near you.
Package Free Fast Food Still A Cancer Risk
And yes, countries around the world are also trying to set the US and other countries straight on the link between processed foods and higher cancer risks.
US Government Reports on Climate Change
Change is the only constant. Like gravity, those who don’t believe it still cannot escape the consequences, or laws of physics. Scientists predict Earth will reach the next irreversible level in 2050, or sooner. This is not just about coastal property. Heat involves the increase of drought and disease-carrying insects, thus scientists predict that this will shrink the US economy and kill thousands. This affects all of us, including the rising cost of food here in Utah and the incidents of insect borne disease.
UN Reports on Climate Change
If you don’t trust CNN, realize it is a report on the US Government disclosing this information. Here is another source from the United Nations.
During the run of BYU’s production of Radium Girls, after a 10-year court case, Samsung President offers a low bow & apology, promising * $130,000 to their employees who contracted cancer since 1984. So far, 117 of 309 afflicted workers have died. * For perspective, Radium Girls got $10,000 in 1928, equivalent to $142,499.42 in 2018. After hearing about these latest industry-employee scandals, BYU actors playing Radium Girls characters reacted on social media:
Don’t even get me started on hazards of today’s current climate of politics!
Hopefully, no matter where you stand on a variety of consumer products, social mores, and political or other organizations we hope that you stand with Radium Girls as a more conscientiously educated public!
How Do You Extract an Element of Radium Girls Spirit?
SCIENCE & SUPPORT:
Shying away from new inventions and discoveries is not the Radium Girls way.
Without scientists we wouldn’t know the hazards of past and present products. In the Radium Girls incident, scientists (doctors, dentists, and industrial hygienists) supported the victims by recording observations, verifying measurements, and reporting their findings as a warning to society. Scientists continue to develop theories and products that protect, enrich, and save lives.
Likewise, society women did their part in support of the Radium Girls. In the play, Miss Katherine Wiley, represents society women and the New Jersey Consumer’s League. Miss Wiley states,
Public sympathy, Miss Fryer. That’s our strongest weapon. …
Public sympathy … Wait and see.
The New Jersey Consumer’s League (NJCL) could have asked for public financial donations on behalf of the Radium Girls, instead, they asked for something much more powerful: public sympathy. The NJCL threw their support behind the Radium Girls with a powerful, nation-wide campaign pitting the plight of the dying girls against their uncaring employers, the US Radium Corp. Today, we also rely on the sympathy and support of a generally morally upright society:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right;
but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right;
therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
Like the society women of Radium Girls the cast and crew were invited to gain public sympathy and support in our present day. Instead of hosting a “fundraiser,” I invited cast and crew to name a non-profit organization with a personal connection to themselves, and then “raise” awareness to the “FUN” (non-financial) ways in which citizens can contribute time, talents, and other resources. Here’s a list of the cast and crew non-profit organizations and some “FUN”-raising ideas:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- walk for awareness
- volunteer outreach programs
- Be the Match
- send a swab
- donate bone marrow
- Carriage House Theater
- help build sets
- donate props or costumes
- audition / perform at the theatre
- Community Action
- childcare at Circles
- tutoring at Circles
- become a Circles Ally
- donate to Food Bank
- volunteer at Food Bank
- Empower Slave to None
- record a song to promote cause
- present at a High School
- pass out flyers
- run a booth
- be a friend to LGBTQ and everyone
- be a visitor or greeter at the center
- support panels
- Fight the New Drug
- take the “fighter’s pledge”
- learn more about the issue
- talk about it with someone
- Habitat for Humanity
- volunteer at Restore
- work at warehouse
- help build a house
- Humane Society of Utah
- foster a pet until adopted
- volunteer hands on with pets during showings
- donate food & pet supplies
- Jason Long Foundation
- visit Huntsman Cancer Institute
- make and give Christmas gifts to kids at Huntsman
- caroling at Huntsman on Christmas Eve with the families
- Mental Health America
- refer someone to the screening tool
- talk to people
- sponsor someone there
- Play for Burk
- plant daffodils
- wear the stickers when playing for Burk
- Primary Children’s Hospital
- make craft kits for patients
- see their website for monthly updates on donation needs
- Provost Elementary
- read with kids
- math center helper
- school play, choir, orchestra
- Dr. Seuss birthday activities
- Sleep in Heavenly Peace
- donate raw materials for beds/quilts
- help make a quilt for bed-less kids in UT/USA
- help make a bed for bed-less kids in UT/USA
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- donate clothes
- donate household goods
- donate furniture
- Wigs for Kids
- donate cut hair here instead of Locks Of Love (this doesn’t charge recipients)
What will you do to make the world a better place?
WHAT IS IT YE SHALL HOPE FOR?
One definition of “Hope” is “the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness.” lds.org. However, as the dramaturg researching these incidents, it seemed hope eluded the Radium Girls. I finally came to terms with their suffering and the suffering of others in this scripture:
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered:
… and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer.”
When my son was little, his fish bowl tipped over into the kitchen sink and his fish fell down the garbage disposal side. He prayed for his fish and miraculously, both fish were delivered and lived long past their expected lifetime. Why do I share our family’s favorite fish story? Because it inspires us to hope that “the prey of the terrible shall be delivered.” Later, in his teens, my son prayed for his agnostic Grandpa, dying of terminal cancer. I thought my son would pray that Grandpa would also live a long life, long enough to come to accept God. Instead he prayed, “Bless Grandpa to have peace and to know where that peace comes from.” Within the hour his Grandpa died. Yet I have hope that if faith could call upon God to rescue a boy’s pet fish, faith can call upon the Fisher of Men to rescue a boy’s cancer riddled Grandpa, the dying Radium Girls, and all of us!