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Old 05-20-2018, 11:33 PM   #58
gmw
cacoethes scribendi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
By agenda, do you mean that the point of this book was to show the human suffering, the toll taken on young women whom the radium companies had ingest radium in the interest of efficiency at the same time that the male scientists they employed were garbed in lead aprons? [...]
This is one area where I believe the book is distorting things - and it seems quite deliberate. What you say is literally true, but like the book, it's misleading. The known danger at the time - direct harm to the skin etc. - was only experienced by the (male) scientists in direct contact with large volumes or concentrations. The lead aprons protected against this - but you will notice that it wasn't complete protection, Sabin himself ends up radioactive, so it's not like he fully understood the risks either. If the dial-painter (women) had been getting burned lips as a result of their contact then I imagine they and their employers would have been considerably more circumspect. But as it stood in the early years, people actually thought this stuff was good for them (lots of things are bad in concentration and good in the right doses, there was no obvious contradiction here).

There certainly are issues of sexism in this situation - even down to the fact that it was just women hired as dial-painters even though there was good money in it. (Quite strange that men didn't grab this lucrative opportunity for themselves.) But the book distorts the issues to such an extent that it becomes difficult to speak of it without raising those flags that so recently caused heated discussion.

What happens after June 1924 (which I am still reading about) is a different matter to went before. From the time of the Drinkers' report the possible risks (if not the true probability) should have been apparent - although I suspect they were not nearly so clear or inarguable as Moore would have has believe (here she is doing herself a disservice because I am trusting what she tells me less and less). But even if the risks are only suspected some precautions would seem prudent (we get half-hearted attempts at stopping lip-pointing, but much more was indicated). Failure to act after this time is - it seems to me - negligent (although having so many people muddying the water would have made it difficult); the failure to act before this time seems quite understandable in context.

Acknowledging that doesn't mean I think the the women suffered any less, and some form of aid should have been available to them (yet another aspect that hasn't changed a century later), but it should not have been necessary to establish wrong-doing as part of getting that aid. Where does this insistence that it must be someone's fault come from? Sometimes __it happens! Without the confrontational nature of blame, some of these situations would be more quickly resolved; people could cooperate rather than ducking for cover to avoid blame.
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